The study has called for “rigorous preventive strategies such as glucose control and weight reduction” to be introduced when people are prescribed statin therapy.
Earlier this year statin experts pushed for increased prescription of the drugs to over-75s, claiming statin therapy significantly reduces risk of major vascular events, irrespective of age.
However, the side effects of statins have long been concerning. While lesser, reversible side effects include tiredness and muscle pains, longer-term side effects associated with statins include an increased type 2 diabetes risk.
In this new paper from scientists at Erasmus University Medical Centre, the health records of 9,535 people aged 45 years or older were examined. None of the participants had type 2 diabetes before the study, some of whom were already taking statins.
When they were followed up 15 years later, the researchers noticed the people who had had taken statins had higher blood glucose levels and higher levels of insulin resistance, which are key risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Those who took the drugs had a 38% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those who didn’t take statins. This risk increased among people who were overweight or obese and had an impaired glucose balance. The reason for this association of statin treatment with increased type 2 diabetes risk is currently unknown.
Lead researcher on the study Professor Bruno Stricker said: “The findings suggest that in patients who initiate statin therapy, preventive strategies such as blood sugar control and weight loss may be warranted for minimising the risk of diabetes.”
The study was published by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.