The Drug Does the Job and Adds a Risk

Cholesterol-lowering statins in high doses associated with increased risk of diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) All drugs have some sort of side effect. It's important to know what these side effects may be. Now, researchers are highlighting one possible risk for patients who are taking certain cholesterol drugs.

Patients taking high doses of statins (drugs used to lower cholesterol) have a higher risk of getting diabetes, compared to patients taking a more moderate dose.

"Cholesterol drugs may raise your risk for diabetes."

Statins are a class of drugs that lower people's cholesterol levels, which reduces their risk of heart-related events like heart attack and stroke. The drugs have been shown to work well in people with and without a history of diabetes.

However, some recent studies have found that high-dose statin treatments may add to a patient's risk of diabetes. To see if this was true, David Preiss, M.R.C.P., from the University of Glasgow, and colleagues studied past statin trials.

According to the researchers, it is important to be aware of any possible long-term risks of statins, especially because it is likely that higher-dose treatments will become more common.

Through their research, Preiss and colleagues found that high-dose statin treatments were associated with a higher risk of new diabetes cases, compared to moderate-dose treatment.

The authors write that these findings suggest that doctors should watch their patients closely for signs of diabetes. Knowing who is most at risk will help doctors and patients attack the problem before it gets too big.

For their research, Preiss and his team studied five randomized clinical trials on statin therapies. They looked at the relationship between the dose size of statin treatment and the risk for diabetes and heart problems.

Out of 32,752 participants without diabetes, 8.4 percent (2,749 participants) got diabetes and 20.4 percent experienced a major heart problem.

There were 149 more new cases among participants assigned to take an intensive-dose statin treatment, compared to those on moderate-dose treatments.

However, the intensive-dose treatment was much more effective at protecting participants from heart problems like heart attack and stroke. Among those on an intensive-dose treatment, there were 416 less patients with heart-related events, compared to those on a moderate-dose treatment.

These results suggest that while high-dose statin treatment can be an effective tool against heart problems, doctors and patients need to stay aware of the diabetes risk linked to such high doses. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 22, 2011
Last Updated:
June 23, 2011