It’s no wonder patients are beginning to doubt the benefits of statin drugs. Not that I think in this instance doubt is a bad thing… not at all!
The fact is, when it comes to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs there are plenty of confusing messages out there… and as always it looks like patients are drawing the shortest straw.
At your own peril
Take the risk of type 2 diabetes for instance. In 2012, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved important safety warnings for statins, including the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Since then, this risk has been established time and again by numerous studies… A case in point: A Finnish study, which included 8,749 non-diabetic men, found that those who took the statin drugs simvastatin or atorvastatin were 46 per cent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and those on higher doses were at even greater risk.
More recent research published in the journal Drugs and Ageing, found that women over the age of 75 had a 33 per cent higher risk of developing diabetes if they were taking statin drugs.
First of all, many experts warn that patients over the age of 65 should not be prescribed statin drugs. That’s because of the associated risks of muscle deterioration, muscle weakness and fatigue, liver toxicity, memory loss and gastrointestinal distress.
So, the mind boggles as to why any doctor would prescribe statin drugs to a patient over the age of 65… and basically speed up the ageing process!
That issue set aside, here’s where things really get confusing.
Despite the clear risk of type 2 diabetes, Britain’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued guidance in 2014 making 40 per cent of adults eligible for statins.
The NICE guidelines recommend that all men aged over 55 and women over 65 are encouraged to take statins to stave off fatal cardiovascular disease, especially those who have a greater than 10 per cent risk of a heart attack or stroke.
So, what is it? Do these drugs increase the risk of diabetes or don’t they? Should everyone over the age of 65 be given statin drugs or shouldn’t they?
Perhaps, if we really want an answer about who should be taking statins, London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra might give us some clues: “Millions see them [statin drugs] as a magic pill but they are not… research shows you are more likely to develop irreversible Type 2 diabetes than prevent a non-fatal heart attack [when you take statins] if you are at low risk.”
Professor Markku Laakso, a specialist in the genetics of type 2 diabetes, has more to add: “The association of statin use with increased risk of developing diabetes is most likely directly related to statins decreasing both insulin sensitivity and secretion.”
And Dr Malcolm Kendrick, author of The Great Cholesterol Con, said: “Ironically diabetes triples the risk of heart disease for men and multiplies it by five for women, so the very drugs given to prevent heart disease may well be causing it in, potentially, millions of people.”
He added: “Many researchers have been aware for many years that the true rate of side effects from statins have been hidden and under-reported.”
Well, say no more…
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
Older women taking statins face higher risk of diabetes, published online 15.03.2017, medicalxpress.com
FDA Drug Safety Communication: Important safety label changes to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, published online 28.02.12, fda.gov
How statins can cause diabetes: Pills raise the risk of getting disease by 46 per cent, published online 05.03.15, express.co.uk