A new study from the Woman’s Health Initiative published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that people taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs experience a significant increase in the risk of developing diabetes.1 The study followed more than 150,000 women over the age of 50 both with and without heart disease for nearly 10 years. Those taking statins had a 48 percent increased chance of developing diabetes. This increased risk was seen among all brands of statin drugs, with both low and high doses, and with both short and long-term use.
This is an interesting revelation, especially since diabetes is a strong risk factor for heart disease-much stronger than elevated cholesterol. What this study is saying is that patients who take statins to lower cholesterol, believing that doing so will reduce their risk of heart disease, are increasing their risk of diabetes, which also increases their risk of heart disease! This study provides more proof that statins are not only useless in preventing heart disease but may promote it.
Doctors already must constantly monitor their statin patients because these drugs damage the liver and muscle tissue. One statin drug, Baycol, was withdrawn from the market a few years ago because it caused severe muscle degeneration leading to kidney failure and death. If statins cause muscles to break down, what are they doing to the heart? The heart is a muscle too! Cognitive loss and Alzheimer’s disease have recently been linked with statins and with low cholesterol.2-3 Now doctors will probably be encouraged to monitor statin patients for diabetes as well.
Anticipating that consumers might question the sanity of using statins, medical authorities were quick to respond to the new study to ease patients’ fears. Robert Eckel past president of the American Heart Association explains that a 62-year-old woman who had one heart attack is still better off on a statin, even if she has diabetes in her family or impaired blood sugar levels. In other words, Eckel is saying that it is better to suffer from diabetes than it is to have high blood cholesterol. Tell that to a diabetic. Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to blindness, amputations, kidney failure, dementia, heart attack, stroke, and death. High blood cholesterol doesn’t cause any of these things, including heart attack and stroke (most heart attack victims have normal total cholesterol levels).
Vivian Fonseca, the American Diabetes Association president for medicine and science adds her two cents, “You don’t want people to have heart attacks because they are so worried about getting diabetes.” Like Eckel, Fonseca is trying to reinforce the outdated cholesterol theory in support of the pharmaceutical industry.
Even the authors of the study cautioned patients not to stop taking their statins without talking to their doctors. “These studies shouldn’t be a cause for alarm,” says JoAnn Manson, a co-author of the study. “Statins’ proven power to prevent heart attacks and strokes outweighs any potential increase in type 2 diabetes,” she says reassuringly.
Sounds good if you believe that high cholesterol causes heart attacks, but it’s not true. Statins have never been proven to prevent heart attack deaths and according to this study may increase the risk of dying early. Studies have already shown that statin users, in comparison to non-users, have an increased risk of dying from all causes, especially from suicide and cancer, which negates any possible benefit statins might have in preventing a heart attack.4
This isn’t the first time statins have been linked to diabetes. An increased risk of diabetes among statin users was first seen in 2008, in a randomized controlled trial of the statin drug Crestor. A 2010 analysis published in The Lancet and a 2011 analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association also found an increased risk of diabetes among statin users. So the link is real.
Since participants in this last study were all women, the study results apply primarily to women. Interestingly, statins have never been shown to prevent or reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes in women. Women with low cholesterol are at higher risk of dying from heart disease than women with high cholesterol.5 In women, higher cholesterol is associated with a longer lifespan. So there is no sense for a woman to be on statins in the first place, doing so only increases their risk of heart disease and diabetes, not to mention poverty (Lipitor costs about $100/month).
Why such a hard push to get people to take statins when studies show they are associated with many adverse side effects and are of questionable value? It’s all about the money. Drug companies make more money selling statins than any other type of drug. Lipitor is best selling drug in history, outselling all other statins combined. In 2008 Pfizer made $12 billion from the sales of Lipitor, and that’s just from US sales, worldwide sales push their profits much, much higher.
Doctors in the US write 255 million prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering drugs each year. According to the National Center of Health Statistics, about one in four Americans over age 45 take a statin, yet heart disease is still our number one cause of death! These drugs are not saving lives. The use of statins among people older than 45 has increased tenfold in the past two decades, from just 2 percent in the years 1988 to 1994 to 25 percent in the years 2005-2008, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Americans spent about $19 billion a year on them, according to IMS Health, which researches the drug market.
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower-limb amputations, and blindness among adults in the United States. It is also a major cause of heart disease and stroke. It is the seventh leading cause of death. This death statistic is misleading because diabetes isn’t an isolated disease, it is intimately connected to other causes of death such as heart disease (the # 1 cause of death), stroke (# 4), and kidney disease (#8), as per the latest statistics (2010). Statins are not only linked to diabetes (#7), but cancer (#2), Alzheimer’s (#6), Parkinson’s (#14), suicides (#10), and violence (#16). [Note; the connection between statins and mental health (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, suicides, and violence) is due to cholesterol-lowering, the brain is the most cholesterol-rich organ in the body and depends on it for proper health and function.6 Lowering cholesterol artificially through drugs can have a significant impact on brain health.] When a person with diabetes dies from a heart attack the cause of death is recorded as a heart attack or heart disease even though diabetes was the underlying cause that injured the heart in the first place.