In a study covering more than 100,000 patient records in three nations, researchers with the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies (CNODES) found that patients taking higher strength statins face an increased risk of developing diabetes.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found a 15 percent relative increase in the risk of diabetes within two years of starting treatment with high potency statins, as compared with low potency statins. Patients included in the study had started statin therapy after experiencing a major cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. About two-thirds of these patients were prescribed a high-potency statin.

Statins considered to be high potency were rosuvastatin (e.g., Crestor) at doses of 10mg or higher; atorvastatin (e.g., Lipitor) at doses of 20mg or higher; and simvastatin (e.g., Zocor) at doses of 40mg or more. All other statins were considered lower potency.

To conduct the study, CNODES researchers from across Canada examined the health records of 136,966 patients who were 40 years of age or older in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. As is its mandate, CNODES has the ability to analyze a large amount of anonymous patient data to assess questions of drug safety more reliably than would otherwise be possible in smaller studies.

In absolute terms, the 15 percent relative increase in risk of diabetes over two years means that one additional case of diabetes was estimated to have occurred for every 350 patients treated with a high-potency statin instead of a low potency statin.

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