Study finds statins could reduce risk of common type 2 diabetic complications

by Barbara Hewitt on September 19, 2014

Statins could reduce the development of common complication that can lead to blindness and amputations in people with type 2 diabetes, new research suggests.

It is well established that statins can effectively reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes in people with type 2 diabetes, but not whether statin use affects the development of small blood vessel or microvascular complications, such as eye, nerve, and kidney disease.


Researchers studied data from more than 60,000 diabetes patients between 1996 and 2009

‘Since high levels of blood glucose, the hallmark of diabetes, are linked with microvascular disease, and since statins are suspected of raising glucose levels, we tested the hypothesis that individuals taking a statin before a diagnosis of diabetes might be at increased risk of developing microvascular complications,’ said Professor Børge Nordestgaard, chief physician in Clinical Biochemistry at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

‘Surprisingly, the results showed that statins decreased rather than increased the risk of these complications,’ he explained.

Using data from Danish clinical registries, the study examined whether statins reduced the incidence of microvascular complications in more than 60,000 individuals selected at random from all patients with diabetes in the entire national population who were aged 40 years or older and diagnosed between January 1996 and December 2009.

The microvascular outcomes of 15,679 patients who had used statins regularly before their diabetes diagnosis were compared with 47,037 patients who had not used statins prior to diagnosis.

The results showed that over a median follow up of 2.7 years, people who used statins were 34% less likely to be diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy that is nerve disease that can lead to foot problems that require amputation.

It also found they were 40% less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy, which causes damage to the retina that can lead to blindness, and had a 12% reduced risk of gangrene compared to those who had not received statins.

However, the risk of diabetic nephropathy, kidney disease, was similar between the groups. Statin users were also slightly more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, as shown in previous studies.

‘We found no evidence that statin use is associated with an increased risk of microvascular disease,’ said study co-author Dr. Sune Nielsen who also said that more research is needed.

‘Whether or not statins are protective against some forms of microvascular disease, a possibility raised by these data, and by which mechanism, will need to be addressed in studies similar to ours, or in Mendelian randomisation studies, but preferably in randomised controlled trials,’ he added.

According to Dr. David Preiss from the British Heart Foundation Cardiovascular Research Centre at the University of Glasgow in the UK, statins also have anti-inflammatory effects which might slow the progression of microvascular disease in the eye or kidney. ‘For now, however, any benefit of statins on microvascular complications remains unproven,’ he added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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