Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Statins, the group of cholesterol-lowering drugs that includes atorvastatin (brand name Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), and rosuvastatin (Crestor), have been under increased scrutiny during the last couple of years as studies have linked them to an elevated risk of Type 2 diabetes. Most recently, as David Spero noted in a January blog post here at DiabetesSelfManagement.com, a study of statins in postmenopausal women found a 48% higher risk of diabetes among women who took one of these drugs compared with those who did not. Since this was not a randomized clinical trial, its results are not conclusive. But enough studies have raised concerns that last week, as a New York Times opinion piece notes, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added a warning on diabetes risk to the label of all statins.

As the Times piece explains, statins are the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, and they have been in use since the 1980’s. But more powerful statins have achieved widespread use only in the last decade or so, and it appears that these drugs are associated with the greatest diabetes risk. With 20 million Americans taking statins and an estimated risk of developing diabetes from the drugs of 1 in 200, 100,000 people could have diabetes as a result of these drugs. Furthermore, the piece notes, among people without existing heart disease who take statins, the drugs prevent only one heart attack or stroke for every 50 people taking them.

Although it is clear from those numbers that statins provide no overwhelming heart-risk reduction or diabetes-risk increase to most people who take them, it is also clear that the heart-related benefit from these drugs is statistically greater than their diabetes-related risk. One particular study, published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found even less of a heart benefit or diabetes risk from taking intensive doses of statins. Each year, according to the study, one “cardiovascular event” is prevented for every 155 people taking high doses of statins, while a new case of statin-induced diabetes occurs among every 498 people taking the drugs.

Of course, comparing the suffering or inconvenience caused by a heart attack or a stroke with that of diabetes is nearly impossible. According to a study published last year in the European Heart Journal, however, using statins leads to an overall lower death rate — mostly, among participants in this study, from a reduction in infections and respiratory disease. While statins have been found in the past to reduce inflammation — one possible reason for their benefits — the mechanism through which they do this, or through which they cause diabetes, is unknown.

What do you think — if you currently take a statin, are you concerned that it might have a negative effect on your diabetes? Or are you more concerned about preventing a heart attack or stroke? Do you think statins may have played a role in causing your diabetes? Has taking a statin led, in your estimation, to any increase or decrease in your quality of life? Are you, or would you be, comfortable taking a drug whose benefits may be partly — or even mostly — unrelated to the reason for which it was prescribed? Leave a comment below!

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Comments
  1. i take a statin..my father died from heart attack at 41 and my mother died at 50..it is heavy in the genes both sides i had diabetes before i took the statins..in the years…since the mid 90’s that i have taken the same dose..my cholesterol is normal always and the diabetes is under control..i have no side effects and good cholesterol is even wonderful..of course i beleive also diet and exercise plays a role in my good fortune for sure and early intervention in these problems..most people take pills and do nothing else to control their eating habits..that never works

    Posted by marylittle |
  2. “Has taking a statin led, in your estimation, to any increase or decrease in your quality of life?” - how the heck would I know? This is kind of a dumb question to an individual I fear. A friend of mine stopped Lipitor and his joints stopped aching, so he says. All I know is that I pay (or paid now that it is off patent) Pfizer a vast amount of money for years and had to remember to take it every night. I have no idea whether it is saving me from a heart attack or whether it is poisoning me. I rather fear the latter but I keep on taking it for some reason - I am sure advertisers know the syndrome. It seems the experts don’t know either. For sure it seems to be of very little benefit. No doubt it will be found that after decades of taking this stuff a significant percentage of people are coming down with some esoteric horrible disease and I may be a test case. It seems to me that the authorities should just declare that these drugs basically do no good and may well do harm to healthy people because that is what your data seem to suggest. Certainly half the doctors I know say this, and the other half say they don’t have a clue as the only advice they get is advertising from drug companies. And frankly very few doctors have the right knowledge that a drug research scientist has. Maybe I’ll stop taking it. I just fear that knowing my luck the day after I stop taking Lipitor I will have a stroke and be kicking myself - unable to talk - when in reality it will have nothing to do with the statin.

    Posted by Peter N |
  3. 08/2006 I began a statin regimen ordered by doctor for cholesterol number’s that were not more than 15% off from normal averages. Three weeks later, I was hospitalized with a glucose reading off the charts and nearly comatose. I was put on Lantus and Actos and the glucose readings stabilized after 4 months. I was on Actos for 4 years running and luckily show no signs of the alleged bladder cancer side effects that it may cause. It really scares me now to think that I was no more than an unknowing guinea pig in some large drug maker’s experiments - not once but twice! Due to these experiences, I recently turned down a clinical trial of gout drugs after reading the “possible” side effects of the study drugs. I am now researching anything and everything my doctor’s want me to put in my body.

    Posted by Bill Wildey |
  4. I’ve had high cholesteral and triglicerides for years. About 10 years ago a new doctor deemed it necessary for me to go on statins. Severe hair loss, brittle nails, and very weak muscles plus muscle atrophy were the result. I tried several with the same results. I went off the statins, and refused to take any more, much to my primary doctor’s dismay. I developed Fibromyalgia after that - and the muscle weakness and atrophy seems very much the same as when I was on statins. So who knows best - my doctor or me? I think I know better than to take something that causes severe side effects. I don’t take any antidepressants for fibro now due to severe side effects. I have no intention of taking statins given my track record with them. And now I am hearing the statins do no good for women over the age of 50. I’ll take my chances without the added medication that could be robbing my body of essential nutrients.
    DMW

    Posted by Dorcas |
  5. Speaking from personal experience I can tell taking a Statin drug WILL raise your blood glucose level. I was having higher fasting levels and after my doctor put me on a Statin drug. I was only taking Metformin and Actos at that time. My doctor added insulin and still my fasting levels were bad. The insulin doese was upped, then Victoza was added and still high fasting levels. Then Glimepiride was added to my growing list. After reading something about Statin drug causing high blood glucose levels I stopped taking it. In a few day my numbers were getting better. After a week I had to cut down on the insulin because I was having low glucose levels. Now the Actos is off my list and I’m still having very good readings. I even feel so much better I’m getting out and walking more. I can’t see the benefit for anyone with Type II Diabetes who has never had a heart problem to take a Statin drug.

    Posted by Caroldsd |
  6. I hate to argue or disagree but:

    Off the actos; you bet. I am as well and kidneys way better.

    Throughout the disaster was on statins. Simvostatin; No issue. I do not see issue.

    Was on when things were bad and now under control, still on the statin. Do not see any issue.

    Actos, hell yes; get that bad boy outa there.

    We are still struck on the vampire silver bullit answer - one thing causes this rather than the multi-organ multi hormone complex system it really is.

    One needs to get off the excess just stuff more insulin and use the actos crowbar to ram more glucose in and to heck with the Insulin resistance and glucose saturation issues.

    Posted by jim snell |
  7. I can only relate my personal experience. I have type 2 diabetes. With metformin, my fasting blood sugar is typically between 100-110. When my doctor added a statin (lipitor), my fasting blood sugar went up to 125-145 and my A1C went from 5.8 to 7.2. My doctor increased my metformin, but it did not change my blood sugar results. Because of an abnormal EKG, I have already had the whole battery of heart tests and my heart is fine and I don’t have any indication of blockage or heart disease. Based on my research on statins and diabetes, I quit taking the statins. Within 2 weeks, my blood sugar levels returned to the range prior to taking the statins. My A1C (tested 2 weeks ago is 5.7. I understand the whole risk vs risk relative to heart disease vs diabetes. There is a growing amount of research that also indicates a relationship between diabetes and Alzheimers. I have seen alzheimers referred to as type 3 diabetes. From my perspective, the results of diabetes are a lot harder or impossible to repair. Heart disease is easier to address with diet change and exercise. I’d rather have normal blood sugar; I’m skipping the statins.

    Posted by Mike S |
  8. I have family history of DM2, heart disease, breast cancer. I was diagnosed “pre-diabetic” 5 years ago. Was diagnosed with DM 2 this past January. Have been on Vytorin for 3 years. Dr. wanted to put me on low dose aspirin instead of a statin- I said no.
    I suffered through and survived a bout of ischemic colitis 18 months ago at which time the surgeon stated no more aspirin. I am in fear of bleeding to death OR losing part of my intestinal tract OR stroke OR heart attack OR DM 2 complications! What to do? I pray.
    I hope to find a Dr. who accepts Medicare and can tell me,unequivocally, what to do.

    Posted by Donna |
  9. DM2 - i assume you mean diabetes mellitis - 2.

    in fairness to Doctor’s and this nasty disease/problem; i doubt you will find any Doctor able to tell you unequivocally what to do.

    one’s best bet is to learn all one can about latest research, cures and thinking and carefully watch/supervise your own cures.

    Current type 2 diabetes testing technology barely puts the tools of merlin the magician to shame and certainly is not up to the 23rd century tools and computers of Dr. McCoy’s Star Trek.

    This is not to suggest there has not been great advances and miracles in 21st century medicine every day. Unfortunately type 2 diabetes is lagging badly with most of the recent finds/discoveries being nailed in a box and shoved into a warehouse like the Arc of the Covenant” in an Indiana Jones movie.

    Best wishes and good luck with your health.

    Posted by jim snell |
  10. I have now tried 3 statins and never again, i feel this time i was posioned with the drug, lipitor. My memory was so bad could not think straight. i am also type 2 diabetic hence the reason put on statins not because my levels were high. I have now stopped it for a week and feel my memory and foggy brain going, never again will it take this drug, not even 50 so to have such a bad reaction.

    Posted by sue |
  11. I had all of the classic muscle pains listed in statin side effects documentation. My doctor said it was because of coQ10 and vitamin D deficiency from the statins. She recommended StatinHelp that is sold on Amazon. It has really helped with the muscle pains. Statin side effects are never really discussed by the doctors. I found out two years into treatment when I mentioned needing something for back and leg pain to her. By then I was taking 10-15 advil per day to function. Thankfully she was a runner who believed in vitamin supplements.

    I did go off statins for a while. It took weeks for muscle issues to go away and I had other strange cramp like issues during the period. I went on a vegan diet but my cholesterol went back up so back on crestor. I’ve considered Lipitor also.

    Posted by William Staton |
  12. Several years ago my cardiologist put me on a statin. Within 3 weeks of starting on the statin I gained 25 pounds. When I told my doctor about the weight gain, he tried to convince me that I must have changed my diet. I showed him my food diary for the previous 6 months, including the 3 weeks that I was on statins. I stopped statins the day we talked and I have never gone back. Since my cholesterol was under 150 at the time I started statins, I never could understand the rationale for starting a statin then or since.

    Posted by Ted Frydry |
  13. Total cholesterol was high but individual levels were normal and triglycerides were normal. Dr. put me on Crestor, 7 and a half months later could not urinate. I took myself off Crestor and symtoms went away. Went to a Cardo, he put me on Lipitor, had blood work done six months after staring Lipitor and blood sugar was high. I told the Cardo doc. I think it is the statin that is raising my blood sugar, he said that I was wrong and I need to keep taking the statin. So I did some research on the internet to see if there had be any studies or reports on statins causing peoples blood sugar to raise. Lo and behold right there in front of my face were patients telling of their experiences with statins causing them to have Type 2 diabetes. I continued taking the statin as my cardo said to do so. I have been on Lipitor for 1 and a half years, checking my blood sugar everyday.(Still high) Two weeks ago I could not urinate normally, just like when I was on Crestor. I stopped the Lipitor and the symptoms are going away. Got a new doctor and now I will be trying Welchol, supposedly does not raise blood suagr and does lower cholesterol. We will see, have to get results in 30 Days.

    Posted by sug-sug |
  14. After using statins(Lipitor) for 2 months my glucose went from 6.9 to 7.7 with aches and pains in my muscles. For the past three years my glucose levels have been in the 6’s. I am certain that the statins raised my glucose levels.

    Posted by Janie |
  15. Diagnosed with Type 2 2 years after starting statins. I had no idea about the connection until recently. I had many discussions with my doctor about leg pain and fatigue. He ignored me. I took matters into my own hands and started researching statins and muscle pain. I now take red yeast rice and have not told my doc that I threw away the statins. Leg pain and fatigue are much, much better. My cholesterol hovers around 150 (changed my diet also) but am still working on triglycerides. My problem- Diabetes never goes away!! Screwed by American Medicine and the FDA.

    Posted by dan |
  16. I was put on statins because of my diabetes and they aimed to bring the LDL below 70.I recently stopped the Lipitor due to the impact on memory and aches and pains. I accidentally took the statin for two days this week. The day after I took the first pill I woke up sore and aching all over. My blood sugars were high and for no food related reasons I can identify. I stopped them again, the pain went away and my blood sugars went back down. I have read some studies that say that statins don’t really reduce the incidents of heart attacks and may contribute to more build up of calcium in the arteries. I made a decision to cut out sugar and limit white flower and increase the amount of olive oil that I consume. The jury is out on whether this is the right move. I know all my doctors won’t be happy but I am more afraid on being on dialysis than I am of having a heart attack so I think this is the right choice for me. Maybe someone not associated with the drug companies will do a definitive study. It appears the conerns are starting to catch the attention of the regulators.

    Posted by Greg |
  17. after being on different statins because of high cholesterol for years ..i was diagnosed type 2 diabetic…i stopped the statins because of terrible pain and weakness in my leg muscles….incidentally my gp said …after blood tests.. that there was nothing wrong…i would soon feel better…i stopped the statins and did soon begin to feel better after two or three weeks….i have been off statins for 2 years now..and feel a lot better …also the last two hba1c tests showed that my blood sugar levels were 5.3…i have never been on any medication for my diabetes….and i can’t help but wonder if i really am diabetic ..or if it was the statins causing a rise in my blood sugar….i’ll never again take statins….

    Posted by MOLLY |
  18. I was recently prescribed a low dosage of lipitor last Tuesday, (May 7th) after just 2 days, I noticed a huge spike in my blood sugar whether I had eaten recently or not.

    Yesterday was the final straw, after about 9 hours since my last meal, my initial reading was 193, then I still took the 10mg dose as before not knowing the link between increased blood sugar until today because the handout on the drug and my doctor said nothing about a potential spike or the severe complications I’d be forced to deal with without knowing all the facts.

    2 hours after eating a bellow 60gram carb breakfast, I was shocked to read not a lower reading even though I had taken my 1000mg metformin and I did not eat anything that could potentially cause a delay in stomach digestion absorption of the metformin, but a slightly higher reading of 196!

    Went to the emergency room but was shocked to obtain somewhat normal readings of 95, 129 and 137 respectively, once I got home my reading a few hours later was closer to the last reading at the emergency room where at home it was now 142.

    This got me to thinking that without a diabetes expert to be found, I had to go to the internet to find some immediate answers as to why the elimination of niacin from my regimen, (to reduce triglyceride levels as well as lower cholesterol) and replacing it with lipitor was causing so many problems in less than a weeks time.

    Fortunately I did not wait long to discontinue this awful drug that 3 doctors ago tried to prescribe for me against my wishes when elevated Tri/cholesterol levels were due more to a non-fasting blood test and not a serious body biology problem.

    Posted by Don |
  19. I was prescribed simvastatin in November 2012 even though I expressed my reluctlance to take it. My cholesterol was 7.0 and within a month of taking it It was down to 4.2. During the Christmas period I was aware that I constantly got heartburn and foods that I usually enjoyed with no problem gave me constant heartburn. I put this down to being stressed over the Christmas period as I was exrtremely busy. I had follow up blood tests at the start of January, which were fine but at the end of January I sarted having problems with my bowel movements so much so that I began to think I was celiac or something worse. The weight was walking off me. I had blood tests at the begining of February and my liver enzymes were raised, I made ann appointment with my Dr but in the meantime I stopped the statin and about 5 days after stopping I noticed my bowel movements were becoming more normal. I had blood tests at this time ( mid march) and my liver enzymes were still raised but slightly so I went back on the statin and this is where the problems really start. Having been off the tablets for one week and going back on them for one more week I can only describe my reaction to them as being poisoned, I felt as though my whole system was poisoned and I had no appetite whatsoever.. I returned to the Dr for the blood tests my cholesterol was down to 2.0 but I have now been told that I am diabetic and also have been booked in for an abdominal scan as liver enzymes were still raised. I do not have any symptoms of diabetes like thirst, tiredness or hunger pangs so I am convinced that the medication has had an effect on my blood results. I have been off the Simvastatin for over a month now and feel realy well but am anxious as I have now to attend a diabetic clinic which I feel I never would have had to do had I never ever started taking Simvastatin.

    Posted by Mary |
  20. I’ve been on Lipitor for just under two months. I have had type II Diabetes for a couple of years now and have had some pretty high numbers (545)but I could always link them to something I ate and shouldn’t have. Shortly before being put on the Lipitor, I had finally decided it was time to seriously crack down on what I was eating and get my numbers down. I was doing great and the last couple of weeks, I don’t have to eat ANYTHING and my sugar goes up. I took Metformin last night, had white meat turkey and green beans for dinner and awoke with a glucose number of 166. I had an Adkins shake for breakfast consisting of 2g sugar and 2 carbs, along with Glimepiride and a few hours later, my sugar had gone up to 246. I have always been forgetful but lately, I can’t walk from one room to the next and hang onto a thought not to mention the aches and just not feeling good. I didn’t connect everything until I was up late last night, unabale to sleep and saw a commercial on tv regaurding a lawsuit. I came online to see what I could find for myself and after reading the comments on this page, will not be taking thiis drug again. I think I’ll take my chances without it. Thank you everyone who shared their stories!

    Posted by B. Buchko |
  21. yes…the memory..or lack of it is really bad…i have to write important things down ..or i never remember…i wish we had been told about the possible diabetic side effect before being prescribed these statins…i for one would have liked to choose between high cholesterol or diabetes…

    Posted by molly |
  22. i have no doubt whatsoever that the statins that i took for years …atoravastatin simvastatin pravastatin and fluvastatin…have contributed to the pain i now have….while i was taking atoravistatin i couldn’t lift my arms because of pain and weakness….then pravastatin…i felt like my leg muscles were weakening..i couldn’t walk upstairs…but blood tests found nothing wrong…as if that wasn’t bad enough i was told i had type 2 diabetes…i stopped taking them 2 years ago..but my knees and hips are still painful…you’re told to excercise if you have diabetes…not much chance if you’re taking statins….i don’t know how long it takes to get rid of these side effects if at all
    i know I’ll never ever take another statin…i’m hoping that the diabetes might be reversed in time now that i no longer take statins

    Posted by lisa |
  23. I started taking 80 mg simvastatin and was then diagnosed with T2. My a1c was 7.0, at 40mg my a1c was 6.3 and at 20mg my a1c was 5.7. Now with no statin my last a1c was 5.5. My skin lupus (ears, chest, nose mostly) has disappeared after 3 months. Tingling in arms and legs is decreasing. Pressure and numbness in head is still the same. In the 5 years of finger sticking I never had a reading over 160mg/dl plasma blood glucose. The 7.0 a1c 1s a 172 average blood glucose,so the statins did give me a false high.

    Posted by J Eisbrenner |
  24. I have a concern about Diabetes increasing cancer and Lipitor worsening Diabetes. I am an Ovarian Cancer survivor and have type 2 Diabetes (which is under control - HA1C 6 and Insulin resistance ratio of 15). I take metformin and not insulin. By LDL is 106 and HDL is 45. I’m on Atorvistatin 10 mg which has not worsened my Diabetes. My doctor wants me to increase it to 20 mg. I’m very frightened about the increased risk of cancer if my HA1C or insulin resistance should increase on a higher dose. There is a strong association of insulin resistance and cancer. My doctor even told me that more of his Diabetic patients die of cancer than heart disease! I’m wondering if I should just remain on the 10 mg of Lipitor since I have no side effects with it. Any thoughts?

    Posted by Ilene |
  25. I have been taking a statin for over 10 years and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 2 years ago…just curious if there is a link. Wondered if anyone was correlating it for men. I saw a class action lawsuit about women taking statins and developing diabetes and wondered if there was any merit to the case or just loser lawyers hijacking a drug company.

    Posted by Ken Scher |
  26. I have taken lipitor for 6 years then switched to Crestor about 3 years ago. And about a year ago, my blood sugar is at 7 and my Doc is telling me I have type 2 diabetes, and wants to to start medication and testing and all that crap even though i have none of the symptoms he keeps asking me about! However,,No one in my family has ever had diabetes?? So I went off Crestor last Thursday. I told my doctor after 30 to 45 days off Crester we’ll check my blood sugar again. If it has gone back to normal, I’m switching doctors!

    Posted by Tom |

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Flashpoints
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