Can statins cause diabetes?
Although some studies have found that statins can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, the benefits can still outweigh the risks.
In 2015, a large study on the general population found that statin therapy appears to increase the risk for type 2 diabetes by 46%.
However, a lead author of the study said that patients already taking statins shouldn’t stop their treatment, especially those already at higher risk of heart disease. He advised adjusting the dose of statin therapy instead. Dr Markku Laakso, from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital, said: "Even if statin treatment is increasing the risk of getting diabetes, statins are very effective in reducing cardiovascular risk.
"Therefore I wouldn't make a conclusion from my study that people should stop statin treatment...what I would say is that people who are at the higher risk, if they are obese, if they have diabetes in the family, etc, should try to lower their statin dose, if possible, because high-dose statin treatment increases the risk vs lower-dose statin treatment.”
An American study in 2012 concluded that older women who use statins are 48% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who don’t. One of the study’s lead investigators, pharmacist Annie Culver of the Mayo Clinic, said: “I think the risk of diabetes is definitely there for statins, and I think physicians are probably aware of this risk. I think we now need more information and more research about precisely how this risk translates to different people and different populations.”
A Scottish study published in The Lancet in 2010 showed that statin therapy at any dose was associated with a 9% increased risk of diabetes. This meta-analysis (which looks at the results of previously published and unpublished studies into the subject) found that a number of participants in 13 statin trials “developed diabetes during a mean of 4 years”.
However, although statin therapy is associated with a slightly increased risk of developing diabetes, the risk is comparatively low when compared with the benefits to heart and circulatory health of taking statins. The authors of the Scottish study concluded: “The risk is low both in absolute terms and when compared with the reduction in coronary events. Clinical practice in patients with moderate or high cardiovascular risk or existing cardiovascular disease should not change.”