Statins in Diabetes: Some Unaware Facts


Diabetes, a most common disease we see in this era. Among 100 people, 40 people are affected by this disease even children are not away from this. If you have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Usually doctors are likely to prescribed statins during this time. But do you ever think it can also give opposite effect. What if it increases the risk of diabetes instead of decrease???

The effect of statins is due to inhibition of hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMG-CoA) and decrease in LDL-C is due to up regulation of LDL receptor activity. Statins decrease LDL-C levels, resulting in a significant reduction of cardiovascular events in many high-risk patients.

The right statin for a person is partly depending on his or her LDL level. If cholesterol is only slightly elevated a less potent statin such as Pravastatin and lovastatin are good options. If cholesterol level is high then the powerful statins such as Rosuvastatin, Atorvastatin and Simvastatin are the options. But if we see carefully most of the time the prescribed statins are Rosuvastatin or Atorvastatin whatever cholesterol is high or not. Prolong and continuous use of such high potent statins is of course a risk indication although they decrease the risk of heart disease at a certain level.

On the other hand, someone who has never had heart disease and who has high cholesterol but no other risk factors is less likely to derive benefit from a statin drug while still facing the risk of diabetes.

The exact mechanism of why statins can lead to diabetes hasn’t been confirmed, but there are several things we do know. Research has found that statins affect the HMG-coenzyme a reductase pathway, the same pathway that can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes.  Those with a genetic weakness are especially vulnerable.

Patients taking the controversial heart drug, statins, have an almost double the risk of diabetes and an up to a twofold risk of serious diabetic complications, a shock study has found. Some very serious studies are conducted since last couple of years in order to establish a link between statins and reasons behind diabetes. This latest study determined that people taking statins had a 46 percent higher risk of diabetes than those not on statins. The research, published in a leading journal examined 25,970 patients over ten years and discovered statin users had a higher incidence of diabetes and also weight gain.

Studies are done both for men and women. 154,000 women and 8749 men were participated in this study. In women, post-menopausal women taking certain types of statins had a 48% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, were found in results. While in men, at the beginning of the study, none of the men had diabetes. But in the 5.9 year follow-up period 625 of the participants developed type 2 diabetes—and those who took statin drugs were at highest risk.

In January 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a Consumer Update outlining some of the risks associated with taking statins, which included an increased risk of raised blood sugar levels and the development of type 2 diabetes. FDA conduct two types of study among one found a 9 percent increase in the risk of diabetes among statin users, and the other a 12 percent increase in the risk. But despite this result FDA representative Amy G. Egan said that statins are established effective drug in treatment of heart disease. Because of some unwanted effect they can’t be ignore as their effect is beyond doubt, people should not scare off statins.

People should do something on their own so that they can minimize the risk of statins as well as avoid the chance of diabetes. It is a good idea to try to do some physical activity and a heart-healthy diet. Exercise helps minimize many heart disease risk factors, including Type 2 diabetes. A proper diet with fiber full food where fat is controlled is enough to manage the risk. But after all this if these efforts do not work doctor can replaced statins at some level. Usually this time patients are put in Medical nutrition therapy where red yeast rice and fish oil are usually tend to replaced statins.

Although a risk named diabetes are linked with statins that does not mean it is incurable or untreatable. The effect of statins on glucose is relatively insignificant. Therefore, the risk of diabetes worsening while taking a statin is small. A caution while prescribing and taking statins and a healthy life style can change the scenario always.

Zahida Haque has graduated from Department of Pharmacy, University of Asia Pacific. She can be reached at


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