From Our 2012 Archives

Statin Diabetes Risk Limited to Those at High Risk

Even These Patients Benefited, With Fewer Heart Attacks, Strokes, and Deaths, Study Finds

By Salynn Boyles
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 9, 2012 -- The benefits of taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs outweigh the risks even among people who are likely to develop diabetes, researchers report.

They studied data from a 2008 study, publishing the results in The Lancet.

"From my perspective, the clinical message is very simple," says researcher Paul M. Ridker, MD, of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The cardiovascular benefits of statins outweigh the diabetes hazard even in those with the highest risk for developing diabetes."

Statins and Diabetes

More than 20 million Americans take Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor, and other statins to lower their risk for heart attack and stroke.

The new analysis confirms that statin use increases diabetes risk, but only in patients with major risk factors for developing the disease.

And even in these patients, statin use still had benefits: It led to fewer heart attacks, strokes, and deaths.

The risk factors included extreme obesity, impaired fasting glucose, elevated levels of the blood sugar marker HbA1c, or other indicators consistent with metabolic syndrome.

"These high-risk patients were well on their way to developing diabetes already," Ridker tells WebMD.

The new findings should reassure patients and their doctors, says cardiologist Tara Narula, MD, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

"The finding that the increase in risk was confined to patients who already had major risk factors for diabetes will help physicians identify the patients who need to be followed closely on these drugs," she says.

SOURCES: Ridker, P.M. The Lancet, Aug. 11, 2012. Paul M. Ridker, Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston. Tara Narula, MD, cardiologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York. News release, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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