Statins and DiabetesEarlier this year, concerns that statins increase the risk of developing diabetes prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require that statins come with a warning label denoting the risk. However, the National Institutes of Health report that new research shows the risk of developing diabetes while on a statin, a cholesterol-lowering drug, does not outweigh the potential benefits of statins.

Researchers used data from a five-year study on Crestor, a common brand-name statin, to determine which users were most likely to develop diabetes and whether or not the complications of the disease outweighed the cardiovascular benefits of the drug. The researchers found that while statins did increase the risk of developing diabetes in people with diabetes risk factors, people who did not have risk factors were no more likely to develop the disease.

The study also found that though people with risk factors such as obesity and high blood sugar were more likely to develop diabetes while taking statins, those same people were significantly less likely to suffer a cardiovascular event than people with similar risk factors not taking statins.

Researchers Confirm that Statins Are Beneficial

According to the researchers, of the study participants who were at an increased risk of developing diabetes, statins prevented 134 cardiovascular events or related deaths for every 54 cases of diabetes developed while on the drug. Researchers were also quick to point out that while diabetes is a serious disease, it is less immediately life-threatening than a heart attack or a stroke, both of which are rather effectively prevented with statins.

Among the study participants who did not have risk factors for diabetes, the risk of developing diabetes did not increase while on statins. In that group, 86 cardiovascular events were prevented while no new cases of diabetes developed.

People at risk for diabetes who are on statins should monitor their health and get checked for signs of diabetes regularly, researchers suggested. Such people should also make a concerted effort to reduce their risks by eating healthy, exercising, reducing alcohol intake, and not smoking.

The study was funded by AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company that makes Crestor. While more research must be performed to improve statins and assess their risks, current research suggests that, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, statins can greatly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.