Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cholesterol Drugs Increase Risk for Diabetes?

A recent article in the January 9th edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine (1) found that post menopausal women had a 48% increased risk of getting diabetes if they used any of the STATIN type cholesterol medications. The Women's Health Initiative, an observational study of over 153,000 post menopausal women found this increased risk. This is a significant finding and a worrisome claim.
In a time when STATIN medications like Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor, and Pravachol are being used more frequently to decrease risk of coronary heart and vascular disease, this poses a significant risk and raises a number of questions.  Is the increased risk actually due to the cholesterol lowering medication, or is the progression to diabetes a component of the patient's heart disease risk due to other genetic factors?  Is the mechanism of action in these cholesterol medications contributing to diabetes risk or are these patients already in the progression to diabetes and cardiovascular changes were identified and treated prior to progression to diabetes.
What should you and I make of this data?  Well, first, don't stop your cholesterol medication. Talk to your doctor about this study and your risk of diabetes.  Second, realize that cardiovascular changes and elevation in cholesterol starts up to 20 years before diabetes is diagnosed in many patients with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Third, further evaluation and research needs to be done and we shouldn't base our decisions on just one observational study.
More to come on this subject I'm sure . . .

1. Culver AL, Ockene IS, Balasubramanian R, et al. Statin use and risk of diabetes mellitus in postmenopausal women in the Women's Health Initiative. Arch Intern Med. Published online 2012 Jan 9. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.625

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