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Diabetes Risk Increases with Higher Doses of Statins


July 24, 2014 — Diabetes Care has published a study linking higher rates of type-2 diabetes with higher doses of cholesterol-lowering statins, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin).

However, researchers cautioned that the risk of diabetes is outweighed by the benefits of statins. For patients with pre-existing heart disease, statins reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The conclusions of the study were based on data from nearly 116,000 Italians who initiated statin therapy from 2003-2004. Researchers tracked the number of patients who developed type-2 diabetes. By 2010, there were 11,154 patients who had been hospitalized with new-onset diabetes and/or started taking an anti-diabetes medication.

Researchers found that patients who adhered strictly to the recommended dosing regimen were more likely to develop diabetes than patients who took 25% or less of the pills they were prescribed. Patients who took the highest doses also had the highest risk of diabetes:

  • Low adherence (26-50%): 12% increased risk of diabetes
  • Intermediate adherence (51-75%): 22% increased risk of diabetes
  • High adherence (75%+): 32% increased risk of diabetes.

Last month, similar findings were published by the British Medical Journal. Researchers found a 15% increased risk of diabetes during the first two years of treatment with a high-dose statin compared to low-dose statins. Pfizer, the manufacturer of Lipitor, is currently facing hundreds of lawsuits from people who allege that the risk of diabetes was not fully disclosed.


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