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Statins Increases Diabetes Risk in Older Women

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Analysis of data from the Women's Health Initiative, postmenopausal women who were on a statin at study entry had almost a 50% greater risk of diabetes than those who weren't on the cholesterol-lowering drugs, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Potential Link Found Between Statins and Diabetes

Recent research has suggested a potential link between statins and the development of diabetes, most notably a meta-analysis that found a 9% increased risk of the disease with statin use.

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Women's Health Initiative Study

Data was reviewed for 153,840 women, mean age 63, who didn't have diabetes when they were enrolled in the study in 1993. About 7% of them were on statins at that time.

Through follow-up ending in 2005, there were 10,242 cases of new-onset diabetes.

In initial analyses, researchers found that statin use at baseline was associated with an increased risk of diabetes, and that association remained significant in multivariate analyses controlling for age, race, and weight.

The researchers found that statin use was associated with a higher risk of diabetes in women with a body mass index (BMI) under 25 than in those who had a BMI of 30 or higher. They said differences in phenotype, such as weight distribution, may explain the association.

Risk of diabetes also was similarly elevated, by about 50%, for women with and without heart disease, and was similar if women used either high- or low- potency statins.

Take Home Message

This study found that older women who take statins may be at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Note that the risk was seen with all types of statins.

The researchers said the study was limited by its observational nature, and because individual statin analysis may be confounded by the fact that women may have changed statin type before developing diabetes.