Healthy patients taking the heart drug statins have a significantly higher risk of new diabetes and a very high risk of serious diabetic complications, a study has found.
The research, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in May 2015, tracked individuals in a database for almost ten years. It discovered statin users had a higher incidence of diabetes and also weight gain.
Patients using the drugs were also more likely than the others to develop diabetes with complications including eye, nerve and kidney damage.
Professor Ishak Mansi, a heart specialist at the University of Texas who led the study, said the association between statin use and diabetes complications ‘was never shown before.
Users of statins were more than twice as likely to develop diabetes and were 250 percent more likely than their non-statin-using counterparts to develop diabetes with complications.
Patients included in the study were identified as healthy adults and researchers assessed of 3982 statin users and 21,988 non users over the decade.
‘The risk of diabetes with statins has been known, but until now it was thought that this might be due to the fact that people who were prescribed statins had greater medical risks to begin with,’ said Dr Mansi in a statement.
Mansi told the Express that those results are ‘alarming’.
He added that drugs may be doing more harm than good for people at low risk of heart disease: ‘I am sceptical about the prescribing guidelines for people at lower risk (of heart disease). I am concerned about the long term effects on the huge population of healthy people on these drugs who continue for many years.’
However, Mansi said last year that patients should not stop taking their statins based on the study
‘No patient should stop taking their based on our study, since statin therapy is a cornerstone in treatment of cardiovascular diseases and have been clearly shown to lower mortality and disease progression,’ he told Medical Research.
‘Knowing these risks may motivate a patient to quit smoking to lower risk rather than swallowing a tablet, or may motivate patient to lose weight and exercise.’
His conclusions are echoed by Alvin C Powers, diabetes specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, ‘I think the risk/benefit ratio in people with diabetes and statins remains the same as it was before, and the recommendations per the American Diabetes Association still are relevant,’ he told Medscape last year.