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Atorvastatin and simvastatin ‘increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 46%’

The study

Approximately 8,700 non-diabetic patients were followed up for almost 6 years, and approximately 2,100 of these patients were put on statins. Insulin secretion and sensitivity were assessed using OGTT-derived indices. (Previous research has shown that pravastatin increases insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of getting diabetes.)

Main findings

1 For atorvastatin and simvastatin, the risk of getting diabetes was dose-dependent

2 There was no increase in risk of diabetes with the other statins: pravastatin, fluvastatin, and lovastatin. However, the number of patients taking the other statins was not sufficient to assess how the effect that these drugs individually had on the risk of diabetes.

3 Overall the patients on statins had a 46% higher risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

4 Overall in the patients on statins, insulin secretion was reduced by 12% and insulin sensitivity was reduced by 24%.

What does this mean for GPs

GPs should be aware of the potential adverse effects of statins on insulin secretion and sensitivity, and the increased risk of diabetes.

We should be judicious in prescribing these drugs, and ensure that patients are fully aware of both risks and benefits of taking statins.

The paper

Diabetologia, May 2015

Dr Hamed Khan is a GP in the emergency department of St George’s, London and a clinical lecturer. He tweets as @drhamedkhan


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