Older women taking drugs like Crestor, Lipitor and other statin medications to control their cholesterol may face a 50% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the findings of a new study.
U.S. researchers conducted a study on the entire class of cholesterol medications, known as statins, which have been shown to be effective at preventing heart attacks. The findings, which were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, seem to back up previous research that suggests there is a link between statins and diabetes.
Researchers looked at data on more than 160,000 women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) between the ages of 50 and 79 from 1993 through 2005. They found that 9.9% of women who took statins developed type 2 diabetes within nine years of taking the drugs, compared to only 6.4% of women who did not take statins, but still developed diabetes. The researchers adjusted for other health factors that could cause diabetes, such as obesity and age group.
According to the study, the increased risk could be an effect of the entire statin class and researchers called for further studies of specific doses by statin type.
Researchers indicated that the overall diabetes risk was too small to outweigh the heart attack prevention benefits of lowered cholesterol in some patients. They recommended that doctors take care that the drugs are only prescribed to those who need them.
Statins are among 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.
In June, a study by European researchers found that patients given high doses of statins were more likely to develop diabetes than those given low doses, but determined that the cholesterol-lowering benefits outweighed the diabetes risk.
That study was a follow-up to a previous meta-analysis published in February 2010 in the Lancet by the same researchers. That report indicated there was about a 9% increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes among those who use statins.
Another study published in March in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that some statins could increase the risk of diabetes by as much as one-third.