Statins: Debate over Diabetes Risk Continues
It is well documented that statin drugs, those used to lower cholesterol, come with a long list of side effects, one of which is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Even though one recent study has concluded that the risks outweigh the benefits, the debate over whether or not statins are indeed beneficial in preventing heart disease is still under contention.
Cautionary statement issued by FDA in 2011
The FDA put a cautionary statement about statin drugs on its website in early 2011, warning those that take statins that they may be at and increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as muscle injury, cognitive impairment and liver damage. Says deputy director of the FDA’s metabolisim and endocrinology products division, Dr. Amy G. Egan, “Their benefit is indisputable, but they need to be taken with care and knowledge of their side effects.”
Since then, drug manufacturers have been scrambling to find out just how much increased risk came with using their product. Dr. Paul Ridker, lead researcher and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, said:
"Unfortunately, little if any data was available at that time to address not only the risks, but also the benefits of treatment. This is crucial since it is the benefit-to-risk ratio that physicians and their patients need to understand. We believe that most physicians and patients would regard heart attack, stroke and death to be more severe outcomes than the onset of diabetes."
Ridker’s previous research of almost 18 thousand patients examined over a 5 period found that those with only one risk factor for diabetes were at a 28 percent greater risk of developing the disease when taking the statin. At the same time, the drug lowered their risk of developing heart disease by 39 percent.
Cat In the Fishbowl
AstraZeneca funded the most recent research and found that the benefits of statins outweighed its risks. Unfortunately, AstraZeneca is the maker of Crestor®, a statin drug, and many are questioning the validity of the research because of the connection. While the company has addressed in several studies that their product lowers “bad” cholesterol, none of their studies have looked at what damage the drug may be doing to muscle function, and the heart muscle function in particular.
A 2009 study done by Michigan State University found, “there was significantly better function noted with SI (strain imaging) in the control group vs the statin group in the 4-chamber, 2-chamber, long axis, and average global views,” with regard to heart muscle function. This means that the control group had better heart muscle function than the statin group. Other research published by the JAMA was equally condemning. Researchers found that high-dose statin use reflected an increase in type 2 diabetes risk. The study found that those receiving the highest dose developed greater insulin resistance, higher hemoglobin A1C, and higher insulin levels.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, one of the leading skeptics of statins says, “Once again, we find that industry-funded claims of health benefits for highly profit-producing drugs need to be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”