Will Your Cholesterol Medicine Cause You To Have Diabetes?
It seems that every time you turn on your TV there is a “1-800-BAD-DRUG” lawyer commercial telling you to call if you have experienced a certain side effect. While bad side effects do happen and there is a time and place for this, in most cases this simply just spreads fear among the population about their medication. One of the most recent ones is an ad regarding Lipitor, which states that it may cause diabetes. I’ve personally had many people ask me if they are diabetic because they have been taking Lipitor. In the majority of cases, their diabetes is due to their lifestyle choices. While there may be an increased risk with certain cholesterol medicines, the verdict is still out and more testing needs to be done.
The original studies that looked at this found that the risk for type 2 diabetes on patients taking a “Statin” (a very common family of cholesterol medications) had an increased risk of somewhere between 10% to 22%. Other studies have stated this risk is as high as 46%. Many of these studies were very selective for participants at a high risk for heart disease and diabetes, so the risk seen in the trials is likely different than the general population. This risk seems to be dose dependent, meaning the higher the dose, the higher the risk. So what’s the truth? Should you stop taking your cholesterol medicine because of this risk?
The answer is not a simple black and white answer for every person. The truth is that every person is different and that statins are very effective in reducing cardiovascular risks, such as heart attacks. People who are at a higher risk of developing diabetes (obese, diabetes in their immediate family, etc.) should consider discussing with their doctor the need to avoid high dose statin therapy. Other options, such as exercise and diet solutions, should be thoroughly explored in these patients before increasing the dose of their medication.
While there are always risks to taking any type of medication, whether it is prescription or over the counter, it’s important to consider the benefit. Controlling cholesterol with these types of medications has prevented countless heart attacks and prolonged many lives. If you currently take a statin, talk to your doctor about your personal risk before stopping or changing how you take your medication!
Your Family Pharmacist,
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