Rx Could Cut Diabetes Complications

Statin use associated with lower rates of microvascular diabetes side effects like vision loss

(RxWiki News) A first-of-its-kind study examined the potential relationship between taking statins, prescription medicines that treat high cholesterol, and diabetes complications like vision loss and kidney damage.

The unknown link between statins and microvascular side effects of diabetes is the subject of new, large-scale research from Denmark.

The researchers found that diabetes patients who used statins had lower risks of some common microvascular conditions.

"Talk to a nephrologist about managing diabetes."

Sune Nielsen, PhD, of the University of Copenhagen, and colleagues studied the unknown link between statins and diabetic vision loss, gangrene and other microvascular complications.

Statins, sold under brand names like Lipitor and Crestor, reduce cholesterol by disrupting production in the liver. Too much cholesterol can clog arteries.

Diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are too high. Microvascular side effects include vision loss, nerve damage, kidney damage and gangrene of the foot.

The authors studied 15,679 diabetes patients diagnosed between 1996 and 2009 who used statins before their diagnosis.

The authors compared that group to 47,037 patients who did not use statins. Dr. Nielsen and team compared the two groups for instances of microvascular side effects.

During the study period, 2,866 patients had vision loss, 1,406 had nerve damage, 1,248 had kidney damage and 2,392 had gangrene of the foot.

Compared with the non-statin users, statin users had lower incidences of vision loss, nerve damage and gangrene, but not kidney damage.

“Whether statins are protective against some forms of microvascular disease — a possibility raised by these data — will need to be addressed in other studies similar to ours,” the authors wrote.

"The mechanism as to how statins might prevent vision loss is unclear," David Winter, MD, MSc, MACP, President and Chairman of the Board of HealthTexas Provider Network (HTPN), told dailyRx News.

"We know that the drugs have an anti-inflammatory effect in addition to their ability to lower cholesterol. Whatever the cause, it seems that diabetics who are not on statins should bring up the topic with their physician," Dr. Winter said.

The study was published online Sept. 10 in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

The Copenhagen University Hospital funded the research.

Review Date: 
September 10, 2014