Patients who used statins prior to being diagnosed with diabetes did not have an increased risk of microvascular disease, researchers have found.
Their study, published in The Lancet, showed the risk of diabetic nephropathy was similar between statin users and non-users, while the risks of diabetic retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy and gangrene of the foot were actually reduced in patients taking statins compared with non-statin users.
The Danish study authors said the outcome was ‘clinically reassuring’, given concerns that statins are associated with worsening glycaemia and a slight increase in the risk of developing diabetes.
However, they cautioned the improvements seen in some outcomes did not prove a benefit from statins in reducing microvascular complications.
A total of 15,679 patients, all aged over 40, who used statins regularly until their diagnosis of diabetes were matched with individuals who had never used statins pre-diagnosis. Patients’ data was obtained from the Danish Patient Registry and information on drug use from the Danish registry of Medicinal Product Statistics.
Over a median follow-up of 2.7 years, the incidence of diabetic retinopathy was 40% lower in statin users, compared with non-users. Diabetic neuropathy was also reduced, by 34%, as was gangrene, by 12%, among statin users, whereas the incidence of diabetic neuropathy was no different between statin users and non-users.
Although the data suggested a protective effect of statins on some microvascular complications of diabetes, Dr David Preiss, a member of the British Heart Foundation research centre in Glasgow, cautioned that ‘any benefit of statins on microvascular complications remains unproven’.