Benefits of statins outweigh “slightly increased” risk of diabetes: study

According to data from a meta-analysis published in The Lancet on Wednesday, the use of statins such as Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) and AstraZeneca’s Crestor (rosuvastatin) is linked to a “slightly increased” risk of developing diabetes. However, the researchers said that this small risk is outweighed by the drugs' benefits and “clinical practice…should not change” for people with moderate or high cardiovascular risk.

The researchers reviewed 13 previous clinical trials of statins involving over 91 140 patients conducted between 1994 and 2009. The pooled data indicated that a total of 4278 people developed diabetes, with 2226 of the cases in those taking statins. The researchers said that this 9-percent increased risk of developing diabetes associated with statin use would result in one new case of the condition if 255 patients were treated with the drugs for four years.

In comparison, it was estimated that giving statins to the same group would avoid 5.4 deaths or coronary events over four years, and about the same number of strokes. Lead researcher Naveed Sattar remarked that the results “mean we give [statins] when appropriate for the right reasons," adding that while the effect appeared to be common to all drugs in the class, further research would be needed to clarify this.

In an accompanying editorial, Christopher Cannon of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School noted that “whilst a new risk of statins has been identified, the risk seems small and far outweighed by the benefits.”

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