A study published in May 2015 reports that statin medications increase the risk of diabetes. Statins are among the most prescribed medications. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that from 1988-1994 to 2005-2008, the use of statin drugs by adults 45 years of age and over increased ten-fold. In 2005-2008, one-half of men and just over one-third of women 65-74 years of age took a statin drug in the previous 30 days.

For 5.9 years, the researchers followed 8,749 non diabetic men 45-73 years of age who were in the Metabolic Syndrome in Men (METSIM) cohort. Diabetes was diagnosed based on an abnormal oral glucose tolerance test, a hemoglobin A1c of 6.5% or higher, or use of a glucose-lowering medication.

The investigators determined that 625 men developed diabetes during the follow-up period. The subjects taking a statin medication had a 46% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The risk of diabetes was dose dependent for the statins simvastatin and atorvastatin. In addition, the researchers showed that statin medication increased the two-hour glucose, glucose area under the curve of the oral glucose tolerance test, and fasting plasma glucose at the follow-up evaluation. Furthermore, statin treatment decreased insulin sensitivity by 24% and insulin secretion by 12% compared to individuals not taking statins. The decrease in insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion were dose dependent for simvastatin and atorvastatin.

The researchers concluded, “Statin treatment increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 46%, attributable to decreases in insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion.”

Reference: Cederberg H, et al. Diabetologia. 2015;58:1109-17.