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Friday, June 24, 2011

Research finds link between statins and diabetes

By Tamara Ballantyne

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) warns that people taking high-dose statins are increasing their chances of getting diabetes. Researchers found that people taking 80mg doses of simvastatin or atorvastatin (both of which are widely prescribed) over a period of 5 years were 12% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, the benefits outweigh the risks according to experts. Statins lower cholesterol, and therefore reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

There are around 200,000 people in England who take 80mg doses of simvastatin or atorvastatin every day. Most of those have suffered a heart attack or stroke in the past. The research, which was led by Dr David Preiss at Glasgow University, looked at a sample of 33,000 people taking moderate or high-dose statins across five separate studies. None of them had diabetes initially.

Researchers discovered that for every 498 people taking high-dose rather than moderate-dose statins for a year, an extra person would develop diabetes. Conversely, the high-dose statins would also avert at least 3 more cardiovascular events in a group that big.

Another study, in which Dr Preiss was also involved, was published in The Lancet last year. Researchers found that taking moderate doses of statins led to a 9% increase over 4 years in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

So far, researchers haven't been able to understand why statins seem to trigger diabetes in some individuals. Experts have advised anyone who has been prescribed statins should not to cease taking in response to this research. Dr Sharlin Ahmed at The Stroke Association said that all patients should be assessed and treated on the merits of their case, adding that health professionals should determine whether patients exhibit existing risk factors for either diabetes or stroke / heart attacks.

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