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Some statins increase risk of diabetes among elderly patients


Cholesterol-lowering statins are one of the most widely prescribed medications given their well-known benefits in patients at risk of cardiovascular events. However, researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and St. Michael’s Hospital have found some statins may come with a greater risk of diabetes in elderly patients without a history of the disease.

“Our findings are significant because statins are among the most commonly used drugs in the world and our findings suggest that certain statins may confer a slightly increased risk of diabetes relative to other statins among those without a history of diabetes,” says Muhammad Mamdani, senior author of the study, adjunct scientist at ICES and scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital.

The population-based cohort study examined all patients 66 years and older without diabetes who began statin therapy between 1997 and 2010 in Ontario. The study found:

  • Compared to pravastatin, an increased relative risk of incident diabetes was observed with atorvastatin (22 per cent), rosuvastatin (18 per cent) and simvastatin (10 per cent).
  • No significantly increased risk was evident with fluvastatin or lovastatin relative to pravastatin.
  • Overall, however, the risk of developing diabetes among patients taking statins appears to be low and may not outweigh the benefits of statin therapy in moderate to high risk patients.

“As compared to pravastatin, treatment with higher potency statins, especially atorvastatin and simvastatin, and possibly rosuvastatin, is associated with an increased risk of new-onset diabetes,” says Mamdani.

The researchers stress that people taking the drugs who have concerns should talk with their doctors, and remind patients that they should not stop taking the drugs without consulting a health-care professional.

The study “Risk of incident diabetes among patients treated with statins: population based study,” was published today in the BMJ.

Authors: Aleesa Carter, Muhammad Mamdani, David Juurlink, Baiju Shah, Tara Gomes, Tara and Ximena Camacho.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future healthcare professionals in more than 23 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.


Read the Journal Article