Medication taken by millions of Britons could increase risk of diabetes

Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes

Designed to lower high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, statins are usually the first port of call for patients with coronary artery disease.

While the small pills are proven to effectively reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes, one type might not be so kind to your blood sugar levels.

A new study, published in The BMJ, found that rosuvastatin could hike your risk of type 2 diabetes.

In type 2 diabetes, the insulin your pancreas makes either can’t work effectively, or you can’t produce enough of it, prompting your blood sugar levels to soar.

The research team analysed the results of the LODESTAR clinical trial, which involved 4,400 adults with coronary artery disease at 12 hospitals around South Korea.

READ MORE Health officials warn of ‘rare but serious’ condition linked to statin use

At the start of the trial, the participants were randomly assigned to receive either daily rosuvastatin or atorvastatin for three years from September 2016 to November 2019.

The Korean research team then examined differences between the two groups in terms of deaths from any cause and rates of heart attacks, strokes, and coronary revascularisation – procedures to restore blood flow to parts of the heart.

Several other health indicators, including development of type 2 diabetes, hospital admissions due to heart failure, major blood clots, and cataract surgery, were also considered.

While the scientists found no “discernible” differences between the two groups for all cause death, heart attacks, strokes or revascularisation, the blood sugar condition created a difference between the two drugs.

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The rosuvastatin group had a higher rate of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to the atorvastatin group.

Furthermore, the participants on this statin type also had a higher rate of needing cataract surgery.

However, other safety outcomes did not differ between the two groups.

Study author Professor Myeong-Ki Hong, of Yonsei University College of Medicine, said: “In people with coronary artery disease, rosuvastatin and atorvastatin showed comparable efficacy in terms of a composite of all cause death, myocardial infarction, stroke, or any coronary revascularisation within three years.

“Rosuvastatin was associated with lower LDL [bad] cholesterol levels, but it incurred a higher risk of new onset diabetes mellitus requiring antidiabetics and cataract surgery than atorvastatin.”

Despite the research raising a warning finger, the team also acknowledged limitations, including the fact that only Asian participants were included in the trial, and the three-year study period may have been relatively short to find longer-term effects of two statin types.

They explained their findings “should be interpreted with caution, and further dedicated investigation with longer follow-up is warranted”.

The NHS adds that statins, like all medicines, can cause some side effects and you should discuss the benefits and risks of taking the medication with your doctor.

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