Statin drugs, such as the widely used Lipitor, may be effective at lowering cholesterol levels and help prevent heart attacks and strokes, but a new study shows the drugs increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 46 percent.
The study, conducted by researchers in Finland, found evidence to support that patients on statin drug therapy were at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. They also noted that a patient’s risk of diabetes increases with dosage.
“This likely occurs because these medications seem to decrease insulin production and inhibit the ability of the body to process insulin properly,” wrote David Becker, M.D., in a column for Philly.com/Health.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that requires patients to follow a strict diet and make lifelong lifestyle changes. These patients also have to monitor their blood sugar levels and often require medication. Diabetes increases the risk for serious health complications including heart disease, kidney disease, some cancers, blindness, amputations and dementia.
Becker also warned of other statin side effects. As many as 10-20 percent of patients stop taking statin drugs because they develop bothersome muscle aches. “Others complain of a kind of brain fog, where they cannot think clearly,” he added.
“I applaud the European researchers who have opened a new chapter in the book on statins, and forced us to rethink a cardiovascular treatment that has become routine,” Becker said. “Now, it is up to all of us to ‘Finnish’ the story.”