Do Statins Increase Diabetes Risk?

Statins are medications that are used to lower cholesterol.  High cholesterol can cause serious health problems including increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to blocked blood vessels.  But research shows that statins may place some people including postmenopausal women at increased risk of developing diabetes.

A recent study analyzed data collected in the national, multi-year Women’s Health Initiative.  The data was obtained from over 153,000 women with an average age just over 63 years. At the start of the study none of the women had diabetes and approximately 7 percent of the women were taking statins.  After an average of 7 years of tracking, over 10,000 women were diagnosed with diabetes.  Statin use at the start of the study was shown to increase the risk of diabetes by almost 50 percent.  All types of statins showed the same result.

Despite these results, the research team recognized that statins are important medications to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease for patients with and without diabetes. The team did not recommend any changes for how statins are prescribed for people who do not have diabetes.  They also did not recommend any changes to the current American Diabetes Association guidelines for statin use for the prevention of cardiovascular consequences.   The team did suggest that further study into the relationship between statin use and diabetes risk would be beneficial.

Also in recent news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration changed labeling requirements for all statin drugs including Lipitor (atorvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin), and Zocor (simvastatin).   The new labels must now include information that statins can increase blood sugar labels and hemoglobin A1C levels, which is another test used to track blood sugar levels.  To clarify the change, the FDA said it “continues to believe that the cardiovascular benefits of statins outweigh these small increased risks” of diabetes.

Statistics show that adults with diabetes are at two to four times higher risk of having heart disease or stroke than adults without diabetes.  The American Diabetes Association continues to recommend that all people with diabetes take a statin to help reduce cardiovascular risks.

If you have questions about any medication you are currently taking, including statins, do not stop taking your medication without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for



Science Daily.  Statin Unse in Postmenopausal Women Assocaited with Increased Diabetes Risk. Web. March 11, 2012.

Medline Plus. Statins. Web. March 11, 2012.

Medicine Net. Statins May Raise Diabetes Risk In Older Women. Salynn Boyles. Web. March 11, 2012.

Daily Dose. FDA issues new safety information for statins. Deborah Kotz. Web. March 11, 2012.

Tags: Statin diabetes risk,statin risk older women,statin risk women

Category: News/Opinions