Millions of patients taking cholesterol-destroying statins may be at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, a study suggests.
Lifesaving pills have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease – but they are controversial among the medical community because of their potential side effects.
And the researchers have now added to the scientific ranks that have been dragging on for years, after discovering that patients on drugs face a third higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
It is estimated that around six million people in Britain take statins and it is estimated that up to 30 million people take the pills in the United States.
Life-saving pills have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease – but they are controversial among the medical community because of their potential side effects
Scientists from the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands analyzed data from 9,535 patients over 45 statins prescribed.
Professor Bruno Stricker and colleagues monitored each of the participants for up to 15 years, to assess whether the drugs are linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Patients with statins had higher blood glucose levels than insulin and showed more signs of insulin resistance – one of the main causes of diabetes and heart disease.
And the researchers found that patients who had never used statins had about 38% more risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
They said the risk was even higher in patients who were overweight or obese, who is a known pilot of the condition.
Professor Stricker said the findings suggest that blood glucose control and weight loss strategies can be "justified" to reduce the risk of diabetes for statin users.
The study – not the first to show a link between statins and type 2 diabetes – was published by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
The NHS lists an increased risk of diabetes as a "common" side effect of statins – but states that it is unclear whether it is caused by the drug itself.
The dott. Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at the NHS, told MailOnline: "The study demonstrates a further proof that statins cause type 2 diabetes.
Statin supporters, including the British health authority Nice, state that pills should be prescribed more widely to prevent thousands of premature deaths (stocks)
High levels of bad cholesterol can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries and cardiovascular diseases (CVD)
WHY DO THE STATS ARE CONTROVED?
Statins are the most commonly prescribed drug in the world and it is estimated that 30% of all adults over the age of 40 are eligible to take them.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs are given to people believed to have a 10% or greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease or having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years.
They have been shown to help people who have suffered heart problems in the past, but experts say the thresholds may be too high, which means the benefits are outweighed by many people's side effects.
Almost all men exceed the 10% threshold by age 65 and all women do it before age 70, regardless of their health.
Commonly reported side effects include headache, muscle aches and nausea and statins may also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hepatitis, pancreatitis and problems with vision or memory loss.
Research published in the Pharmaceutical Journal last year found that taking a statin daily for five years after a heart attack prolongs your life by just four days, reveals new research.
And Dr. Rita Redberg, a professor at the University of California, in San Francisco, told CNN in January to 100 people who took statins for five years without having a heart attack or stroke, "the best estimates are that or two people avoid a heart attack, and no one will live longer, taking statins. "
"In the interest of medical ethics, it is essential that all patients are made of this so that they can make an informed decision about the opportunity to take the drug.
This is especially important in those at low risk for heart disease where there is no "extension of clear life in taking medication."
"The risk of type 2 diabetes may be less important in those with heart disease, where one in 83 will live longer and one in 40 will have a heart attack that can take the drug for a period of five years."
Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York also found that statin users face a similar risk similar to type 2 diabetes.
Writing in the British Medical Journal at Open Diabetes Research & Care, they said this was likely because the pills damage the production of insulin.
Experts at the time even argued that the relative risk of diabetes may seem high, in fact the absolute number of people who would be affected would be small.
Statin supporters, including the British health authority Nice, argue that the pills should be prescribed more extensively to prevent thousands of premature deaths.
But many doctors are uncomfortable with the "overdetermination" of middle age, which sees the statins distributed "in the event that" patients have heart problems in old age.
Yet they agree that for high-risk patients, such as victims of heart attack, statins are proven life-saving, reducing the possibility of a second attack.
Since 2014, all over-75 in Britain have been allowed to take statins – which cost no more than £ 20 million per year – even if they are in perfect health.
High levels of bad cholesterol can lead to stiffening and narrowing of the arteries and heart disease, which kills 150,000 people each year in the United Kingdom and 610,000 in the United States.
But some doctors wonder if reducing "bad" cholesterol protects at all from heart disease.
Less common but serious side effects known to be caused by statins include hepatitis, pancreatitis, blurred vision, memory problems and fatigue.
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