Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Adults with Type 2 diabetes on statin therapy may need to adjust their diabetes treatment to avoid worsening symptoms, a study published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine found.
That's because those taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs may be more likely to experience worsening diabetes symptoms than those not using them, the researchers said.
Statin users had a 37% higher risk for diabetes progression, including extremely high blood sugar levels and elevated rates of disease complications, compared with those not on the prescription drugs, the data showed.
In the study, 56% of statin users showed signs of diabetes progression and needed to be started on insulin treatment and other blood sugar-lowering therapies, compared with 48% of those not on the drugs.
"Association does not prove causation, [so] no patient should stop taking their statins based on our study," co-author Dr. Ishak Mansi told UPI in an email.
However, "patients on statins may need to escalate their anti-diabetes therapy when they initiate treatment," said Mansi, a professor of medicine and data and population science at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.
Adjusting medications -- either changing doses or drugs -- is a common practice in the management of diabetes, anyway, he added.
About 28 million adults in the United States -- or slightly more than one-third of those with high cholesterol -- are taking statins such as atorvastatin, which is sold under the brand name Lipitor, or rosuvastatin, or Crestor, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly half of adults with Type 2 diabetes also have high cholesterol, the New York State Department of Health reported. Many of them stop taking statins due to worsening diabetes symptoms, including increased insulin resistance and blood sugar levels, research suggests.
This may increase their risk for heart attack or stroke, Mansi and his colleagues said.
For this study, the researchers compared rates of diabetes progression among more than 83,000 adults with Type 2 diabetes on statin therapy with those within a similar population not on the drugs.
All of the study participants were being treated in the Veterans' Affairs health system, the researchers said.
Study participants were considered to have diabetes progression if they needed to start treatments to maintain healthy insulin levels -- the hormone produced by the pancreas that processes sugars -- or other blood-glucose-lowering therapies.
Those who developed diabetes related complications such as ketoacidosis, when the body produces elevated amounts of blood acids, which can lead to severe dehydration, and hyperglycemia, or dangerously high blood sugar levels, also were defined as having diabetes progression.
"This study may alert clinicians that they may need to pay close attention" to patients on statins with Type 2 diabetes, Mansi said.
"It is also important to emphasize the importance of healthy lifestyle -- weight control, physical activity, smoking cessation, etc. -- to decrease the risk of development of these [complications]," he said.