Researchers analyzing recent data about cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor and Zocor, known as statins, believe they have discovered a link between the medications and an increased risk of diabetes.
University of Glasgow scientists analyzed the results of 13 different studies into the side effects of statins and found that people using the cholesterol drugs faced a 9% increased risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The results of the analysis were published last week in the medical journal The Lancet.
Statins are the best-selling drugs in the United States, with $14.5 billion in combined sales in 2008. They use the liver to block the body’s creation of cholesterol, which is a key contributor to coronary artery disease. Statin is used in a number of popular cholesterol controlling drugs, including Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor, Lescol and Pravachol.
Researchers looked at studies involving a total of 91,140 participants performed between 1994 and 2009. They discovered that there was about a 9% increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes among those who use statins. While they eliminated a number of other potential causes of the increased diabetes risk, they do not make a causal link between statins and diabetes, however.
Researchers said that the increased risk did not offset the health benefits of lowered cholesterol and the reduction of the risk of coronary health problems due to high cholesterol. Therefore, they recommended no change in the use of the drugs for high-cholesterol patients.
Other studies have found that about 1 in 10,000 statin users develop a sometimes-fatal muscle condition known as rhabdomyolysis. The rare condition causes skeletal muscle damage and releases myoglobin into the bloodstream. The myoglobin can cause severe kidney failure or death.
In 2002 and 2008, the FDA issued warnings about the increased risk of rhabdomylosis when statins are used in combination with heart medication containing amiodarone. In 2001, the statin-based drug Baycol was removed from the market due to its links with rhabdomyolysis.