There has been a lot of publicity surrounding one of the side effects of the cholesterol-reducing drug Lipitor and some of its side effects. It has been shown that the highly prescribed drug increases the risk of diabetes slightly, especially in older women and those already at risk for the Type II form of the illness.
Other cholesterol-reducing drugs, particularly Crestor (rousuvastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin), also have been shown to increase the risk of diabetes. The connection is much less clear with earlier cholestero- reducing drugs, such as Pravachol and Prevocor, probably because they are less powerful.
Patients taking 20 milligrams of Crestor had a one in 167 chance of developing Type II diabetes. The risk increased to one in 125 at higher doses. According to one New York Times article, patients taking the three most popular cholesterol-reducing drugs have a one in 200 chance of developing Type II diabetes, when all doses and drug brands are taken into account.
It turns out that for people who have already had a heart attack or stroke, the benefits of taking Crestor or Zocor outweigh the risks of developing diabetes. However, people who have not had any health incidents before may do better trying non-drug methods of reducing their cholesterol levels. These include diet, exercise, weight loss and stress reduction and other approaches.
Crestor is manufactured by AstraZeneca. The company has issued warnings that there is an increased risk of side effects in Asian populations in general, and that it is more potent among those of Asian ethnicity than Caucasians. Doctors should begin treating Asian patients with Crestor at the lowest dose available, five milligrams.
A 2008 study sponsored by Crestor showed that there was an elevated risk for Type II diabetes, as did later studies of the same drug and other statins. Researchers have hypothesized that the link between such drugs and diabetes is because the medicine increases muscle resistance to insulin. This, however, has not been conclusively demonstrated.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responded to research indicating the increased risk of developing diabetes when taking cholesterol- lowering drugs by issuing a warning label for Crestor, Lipitor and for other cholesterol-lowering statin drugs that include:
The warning says that patients taking these drugs and their generic equivalents face a slightly increased risk of high blood sugar levels and of being diagnosed with diabetes. The warning was added in 2012. However, studies conducted earlier, including those mentioned above, established some degree of risk several years prior to the FDA changing required warnings.