June 12, 2014 — A study published in the British Medical Journal has linked the use of high-potency statins with a 9% increased risk of diabetes compared to low-potency statins.
The conclusions of the study were based on data from nearly 137,000 people in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom who participated in eight studies.
The participants were all over 40 years old and prescribed a statin after being hospitalized for a major cardiovascular event or procedure. The study included data from January 1, 1997 and March 31, 2011.
The label on all statins, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin), includes warnings about diabetes. However, the researchers found that type-2 diabetes was more likely to be diagnosed in patients who started higher-potency statins, especially in the first four months of treatment:
“In the first two years of regular statin use, we observed a significant increase in the risk of new onset diabetes with higher potency statins compared with lower potency agents. … The risk increase seemed to be highest in the first four months of use.”
The results of the study should not discourage people with heart disease from seeking treatment. Numerous studies have shown that cholesterol-lowering statins decrease the risk of another heart attack or stroke for people who have had heart problems in the past.
However, researchers point out that studies have not shown a difference in mortality or adverse events for patients who are on high-potency statins vs. low-potency statins. Therefore, it makes sense to carefully consider the possible risk of diabetes when selecting a starting dose.