Strong Link Between Statin Drugs and Diabetes
In a study of nearly 26,000 beneficiaries of Tricare, the military health system, cholesterol-lowering drugs statins have been found to increase the risk of developing diabetes. The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, confirms past findings on the link between the widely prescribed drugs and diabetes risk. The study included only people who at baseline were free of heart disease, diabetes and other severe chronic disease, is among the first to show the connection in a relatively healthy group of people.
The researchers examined patient records for the period between October 2003 and March 2012.
Statin drugs are the all-time leading prescription drugs sold around the world, prescribed by doctors to lower people’s cholesterol levels. While the side effects are a serious concern, there are also concerns that statin drugs have no therapeutic value either. Studies have never conclusively proven that lowering one’s cholesterol levels by medication increases one’s life span. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary, that higher cholesterol levels are associated with longer life spans.
Some eye-opening findings are:
1. Among 3,351 pairs of similar patients-part of the overall study group-those patients on statins were 250 percent more likely than their non-statin-using counterparts to develop diabetes with complications.
2. Statin users were also 14 percent more likely to become overweight or obese after being on the drugs.
3. Higher the dose of any of the statins, the greater the risk of diabetes, diabetes complications, and obesity.
4. About three-quarters of the statin prescriptions in Mansi's data were for simvastatin, sold as Zocor.
Using two different techniques for data analayis, namely a) propensity score matching where out of the total study population, the researchers chose 3,351 statin users and paired them with non-users who were very similar, at baseline, based on array of 42 health and demographic factors. The only substantial difference, from a research standpoint, was the use of statins. This helped the researchers isolate the effects of the drugs, b) looking at the overall comparison between the study's roughly 22,000 nonusers and 4,000 users, and statistically adjusting for certain factors. The researchers found a similar outcome: Users of statins were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes.
The authors conclude as “Diabetes, diabetic complications, and overweight/obesity were more commonly diagnosed among statin-users than similar nonusers in a healthy cohort of adults. This study demonstrates that short-term clinical trials might not fully describe the risk/benefit of long-term statin use for primary prevention.”
Article citation: Mansi, I.; et. al. Statins and New-Onset Diabetes Mellitus and Diabetic Complications: A Retrospective Cohort Study of US Healthy Adults. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s11606-015-3335-1