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Statin link to diabetes overestimated

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Two new Australian studies suggest the increased risk of diabetes associated with statin treatment has been overestimated, and may have more to do with weight gain than a metabolic effect of statins.

Statins are used extensively to treat dyslipidemia and have been associated with significant clinical benefit that increases with dose. However, recent studies have associated statins with an excess risk of developing diabetes mellitus, which may offset the clinical benefit to patients

Researchers from the University of Queensland found that the risk of developing diabetes among those on high dose statins was much lower than the 9 per cent claimed by other studies.

In a meta-analysis of five statin trials, the researchers found difference in diabetes risk between users of moderate and high doses of statin was extremely low, at around one per cent.

This linked to one new case of diabetes for every 237 patients, treated for two years, with a high dose statin.

Lead study author Associate Professor Dr Suhail Doi from University of Queensland said these findings suggest that the increased risk of diabetes may not be large enough to counter statin benefits.

“Given the treatment effect in terms of cardiovascular prevention in previously reported studies is large and statin intervention has been well documented to reduce cardiovascular events and prevent death, this benefit will not be offset by the very small risk of onset of diabetes.”

In a separate study, researchers from NSW showed that weight gain was a significant part of the increase in risk of diabetes in people taking statins.

Data from a five-year trial was analysed by 7595 patients consuming a low dose of 10mg, and a high dose of 80 mg, of atorvastatin. They found that patients gained about one kilogram in weight in the first year of the study.

About 8 per cent of patients developed new-onset diabetes, and change in body weight was an independent predictor of diabetes.

“Our study indicates that a small weight loss, which can be achieved readily, can result in substantial reduction of new onset diabetes risk in both men and women,” the researchers said.

Sanja Novakovic