What are statin drugs?

Statins are prescription drugs taken by patients with high amounts of LDL or bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol usually builds up in the arteries, increasing the risk of a stroke or heart attack. Statin drugs work by changing the way your liver manufactures good and bad cholesterol. Statins increase the amounts of good cholesterol or HDL, and reduce LDL levels. This helps to lower the risk of having stroke or heart attack. There are different types of statins you can find in the market, including:

  • rosuvastatin
  • fluvastatin
  • simvastatin
  • pravastatin

Link between statin drugs and diabetes

Statin drugs have numerous benefits and are considered to be safe to use; however, they still have side effects. A Finnish study found that patients taking statin medications have a 50% increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes (T2D). The study showed that this cholesterol-reducing drug can increase a person’s resistance to insulin. Insulin resistance is among the major risk factors that contribute to a person having T2D. This condition occurs when your body fails to effectively use the insulin it naturally produces. This results in high amounts of blood glucose, which if not treated, could lead to type 2 diabetes. Statins can also impair the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps to control blood sugar. Without this hormone, blood sugar will rise above the normal range. The researchers found that the risk of getting diabetes increased with higher statin doses. It was also discovered that statin medications, such as atorvastatin and simvastatin, reduced a patient’s sensitivity to insulin by 24% and secretion of insulin by 12%. When simvastatin was taken in higher dose, it had 44% higher risk of causing T2D diabetes. The study also found that when atorvastatin was taken in higher doses, it had 37% higher risk of causing diabetes.

The FDA and ADA on statin medications and diabetes

Despite the findings that link statins to increased risk of getting diabetes, the American Diabetes Association said that the benefit of using statin drugs outweighs the potential risk of developing diabetes. That means diabetic and non-diabetic patients can still take statins and enjoy its benefits without worrying about the associated effects. In fact, the FDA believes that statin medications have many health benefits for patients with cardiovascular disease. The announcement they made back in 2012 was not meant to urge people to stop using the drug, but to encourage doctors to monitor the blood glucose levels of patients taking statin drugs. However, experts say that special consideration should be given to prediabetes patients before they use statin medications. This is because they are on the verge of getting diabetes. That means, the doctor and patient should look at the benefit and risk of using statins and come to a decisive conclusion. If a patient already has diabetes, there is no need for them to worry about using statins since they are receiving treatment for their condition.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.