Using this method, the researchers identified 135 non-diabetic patients taking both drugs whose blood sugar increased 19 milligrams per deciliter after starting treatment. They also identified 104 diabetics whose blood sugar increased an average of 48 mg/dl while taking both drugs.
People with blood sugar levels of 126 mg/dl or higher on two tests are considered diabetic. Levels of 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl are considered pre-diabetic.
By extrapolating these findings to the entire United States population, Altman's team believes that of 33 million people currently taking Paxil or Pravachol, 500,000 to 1 million take them together.
To test whether their findings were merely associations that could be explained by other factors, the researchers experimented with the drugs in mice.
The mice were exposed to the two drugs after receiving a high-fat, high-calorie diet to make them pre-diabetic. While neither drug alone increased blood sugar, together they increased blood sugar from about 128 mg/dl to 193 mg/dl, the researchers found.
"This was just like the humans in our database," Altman said. "So, this seems to be a real biological effect. This might give us insight into mechanisms of diabetes."
Altman cautions that people taking this drug combination should not overreact.
"People on an antidepressant should not mess with that because depression is a very serious disease," he said. It would be reasonable to visit a physician and see if your glucose levels have been difficult to control, he said. "If it has been, then I would think the thing to change might be the statin," he said.
Dr. Ronald B. Goldberg., professor of medicine at the Diabetes Research Institute of the University of Miami Miller
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