Statins and Diabetes

A recent study conducted by Danish researchers has concluded that statin drugs, used to treat high cholesterol, may reduce diabetes complications like blindness and amputations.

The research, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology Journal, utilized data from 60,000 Danes with type 2 diabetes. All patients were 40 years of age or older, and all had been diagnosed between January of 1996 and December of 2009. The sample included 15,500 patients who received statin drugs and 47,000 who did not.

The Findings

A median follow-up, conducted 32 months later, showed that those patients who were prescribed statins were 34 percent less likely to have diabetes-related nerve damage, 40 percent less likely to have developed nerve-related damage to the retina and had a 12 percent lower risk of gangrene that those patients who were not taking statins.

There was no evidence that the risk of kidney disease was either impaired or improved at all.

Some Cautions

As exciting as these results are, they are preliminary. Statins do have anti-inflammatory properties, and there is some speculation that this is the reason for the improvements noted. However, more studies must be undertaken to determine the exact process causing these improvements. Are statins protective against some forms of microvascular disease? If so, which statins, and through what mechanism? Would the same findings occur in a more diverse population sample? (The population in Denmark is much more similar in makeup than that in other parts of the world, and it may be that these findings are less substantial in a mixed population.)

Statin drugs are already known to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke for those with type 2 diabetes. However, they are also believed to contribute to increases in blood glucose levels. In fact, an increased risk of developing diabetes is on the warning label for one of the most popular statins, Lipitor (atorvastatin). This risk is especially high for post-menopausal women, an estimated 48 percent increased risk.

It is for this reason that the testing was undertaken, because it was believed that statins might actually add to the risk of microvascular complications. The fact that the opposite was true is what made these results so surprising to the researchers.

Talk to Your Physician

None of what has been said above is intended as a substitute for what your physician tells you. If your physician feels you should or shouldn’t take a statin, they have their reasons.

Statins do increase the risk for diabetes, but their proven benefit in reducing cardiovascular events may outweigh that risk.

Sources: DrugWatch.com

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