People taking high doses (80 milligrams) of one of these drugs had a 12 percent higher risk for new-onset diabetes but a 16 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular events, compared with moderate doses.
That translates to one new case of diabetes for every 500 patients treated for one year with a high-dose statin compared with one fewer patient having a stroke or heart attack for every 155 patients treated for one year.
But the study had a number of limitations, other experts stated.
For one thing, it was a meta-analysis which, says Dr. Jacob Warman, chief of endocrinology at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City, "doesn't prove anything." These types of analyses tend to be more "hypothesis-generating." (When researchers conduct a meta-analysis, they synthesize previous studies to look for patterns that would not show up in an individual study).
"It's suggestive but I don't know that it's conclusive," added Dr. Steven D. Wittlin, clinical director of the diabetes service at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.
While there was a benefit seen in macrovascular complications, such as heart attacks, it's unclear if the same would be true with microvascular complications or those that involve small blood vessels and contribute to conditions such as neuropathy, Wittlin said.
That could change the risk-benefit ratio, he noted.
Also, as the authors themselves pointed out, the biological mechanisms behind the effect are still not clearly understood.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on statins.
SOURCES: Jacob Warman, M.D., chief of endocrinology, Brooklyn Hospital Center, New York City; Steven D. Wittlin, M.D., clinical director, endocrine-metabolism division, and director, Diabetes Service, University of Roch
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