WASHINGTON — A new side effect seems to be emerging for those cholesterol-lowering wonder drugs called statins: They may increase some people’s chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.
A study published Monday adds to the evidence, finding a modest risk among older women who used a variety of statins.
But more and more doctors are urging otherwise healthy people to use the pills as a way to prevent heart disease. For them, the findings add another potential complication as they consider whether to tackle their cholesterol with diet and exercise alone or add a medication.
“The statin should not be seen as the magic pill,” says Dr. Yunsheng Ma of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who led the study of postmenopausal women.
Statins are one of the most widely prescribed drugs, and among the most touted with good reason. They can dramatically lower so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol. Studies make clear that they save lives when used by people who already have heart disease.
It’s a puzzling link, and specialists say people who most need statins because of a high risk for a heart attack should stick with the drugs.
“What I fear here is that people who need and will benefit from statins will be scared off of using the drugs because of reports like this,” says Dr. Steven Nissen, cardiology chairman at the Cleveland Clinic, who wasn’t involved with the research. “We don’t want these drugs in the water supply, but we want the right people treated. When they are, this effect is not a significant limitation.”