People with high cholesterol or other risk factors for heart attacks and strokes are often prescribed medications to lower cholesterol, called statins or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. This class of medications includes atorvastatin, simvastatin, rosuvastatin, and others. The medications work by blocking an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol. Statins also have anti-inflammatory effects on blood vessels, making them more effective at preventing plaque formation than other types of cholesterol medications.
A few years ago, a study suggested that statins increase the risk of diabetes, leading many physicians reluctant to prescribe them, and patients refusing to take them.
A new study published last week gives us more detail on which patients are at higher risk of developing diabetes while taking a statin. The study found a stronger association between statin use and diabetes than other studies have found. The patients in this study who were taking a statin were more likely to have higher serum levels of insulin, and insulin resistance, and to develop type 2 diabetes. The risk was more significant among patients who were overweight or obese. Patients who are overweight/obese are already more likely to develop diabetes. It’s important to note that this recent study was an observational study, which cannot show causation, only association.
So the findings in this study are not conclusive evidence, but they do highlight the need for further research. Statins are very effective at reducing cardiovascular risk, but it may become necessary to monitor blood glucose more closely and address weight loss in patients who are started on statin therapy.
Don’t stop any medication before discussing it with your doctor.