September 26, 2014 — A study published in The Lancet has found a 12% increased risk of type-2 diabetes from statins, such as Lipitor, which is likely due to the drug itself and not some underlying risk-factor in the patient.
Evidence linking diabetes with cholesterol-lowering statins has been growing for several years. Until now, no one knew whether this was because people who have high cholesterol also tend to have other medical conditions that also increase their risk of diabetes.
Researchers looked at genetic data on over 200,000 people who participated in 46 studies. They looked for people who had gene variants that lowered levels of the enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR).
Statins work by inhibiting HMGCR, which prevents the body from creating cholesterol. Unfortunately, it may also have effects on blood-sugar, lipid, and insulin levels.
The researchers found that patients on statins had similar rates of type-2 diabetes as patients with the genetic variant. The study suggests that inhibiting HMGCR increases the risk of type-2 diabetes. The authors of the study concluded:
“Statins increase the risk of new onset type 2 diabetes mellitus. The increased risk of type 2 diabetes noted with statins is at least partially explained by HMGCR inhibition.”
Other studies have made similar conclusions. In July, Diabetes Care published a study linking the use of high-dose statins with a 32% increased risk of diabetes.
The manufacturers of statins are facing lawsuits for downplaying this risk information. As of this month, over 1,200 lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer by people who took Lipitor and were diagnosed with diabetes. Earlier this year, these lawsuits have been centralized in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) in South Carolina.