“This is not about stopping statins,” lead author Colin R. Dormuth,
from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, told Reuters
Health. “These patients should be on a statin, the question is,
should they be on a higher or a lower dose?”
Dormuth and his coauthors analyzed data on 137,000 patients from
Canada, the U.S. and the UK. The patients were all prescribed
statins after being hospitalized for a stroke, heart attack or other
major heart problem between 1997 and 2011. None of them had
The researchers considered rosuvastatin (brand name Crestor)
prescribed at 10 milligrams or more per day, atorvastatin (Lipitor)
at 20 mg or more and simvastatin (Zocor) at 40 mg or more to be
higher-potency statins. All other dosages were considered lower
About 3,600 of the patients were diagnosed with diabetes within two
years of starting the drugs, according to results published in BMJ.
Those prescribed a higher-potency statin were 15 percent more likely
to be diagnosed with diabetes than those given lower dosages.
Previous studies have found that taking higher doses of statins
reduces the risk of having another serious heart problem by the same
amount - about 15 percent - compared to taking lower doses.
“Physicians need to weigh the small increase in benefit against the
increase in diabetes risk,” Dormuth said.
In other trials, rates of death among patients taking low-dose and
high-dose statins have been the same. That means higher-dose statins
do not extend life more than the low-dose versions, he said.
The higher dose may still be necessary for some patients, for
example those with genetic conditions leading to very high
cholesterol, he said.
The first major statin trial was published in 1994, but researchers
did not suspect a link with diabetes until 2008, said David Preiss.
He has studied statins and diabetes at the University of Glasgow in
Scotland and was not part of the new study.
After that, two major trials were published which found that taking
a statin puts people at slightly higher risk of developing diabetes
and taking a stronger statin puts them at slightly higher risk than
taking a weaker statin, he said.
[to top of second column]
“Commonly used statins, such as simvastatin, atorvastatin and
rosuvastatin, taken at a lower dose probably puts one at 10 percent
higher risk of developing diabetes,” Preiss said. “Taking these same
statins at high doses probably pushes this up to about 20 percent.”
However, it’s still not clear what explains the extra risk,
The BMJ study is based on a review of the records of patients
treated in day-to-day practice by doctors who individualized
treatment for each patient, Preiss noted.
“In other words, there were inevitably differences between patients
that were treated one way and those treated another way - and this
limits the ability of such studies to be able to look at cause and
effect,” Preiss told Reuters Health in an email.
Statins have been linked to other health problems beyond diabetes,
including kidney injury and rhabdomyolysis, or rapid loss of muscle
tissue, Dormuth noted.
“It’s not as simple as comparing a small increase in diabetes to a
small increase in heart protection,” he said.
The new findings are important for doctors to consider when
prescribing statins, but they shouldn’t change anything patients are
doing, he said.
“If patients are worried they should talk to their doctors,” he
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/RQnlnr BMJ,
online May 29, 2014.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.