Jill Crandall, Albert Einstein College of Medicine – Statins

On Albert Einstein College of Medicine Week:  Can statins be dangerous for you?

Jill Crandall, professor of medicine, examines if use of these drugs can lead to other maladies.

Dr. Crandall is professor and the Jacob A. and Jeanne E. Barkey Chair in Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and chief of the division of endocrinology at Einstein and Montefiore Health System. She is director of the Fleischer Institute for Diabetes and Metabolism and director of the Diabetes Clinical Trials Unit. Dr. Crandall is also a principal investigator for several NIH-sponsored clinical trials, including the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcome Study (for which she holds several national leadership positions, including Executive Committee membership), Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes (GRADE), and the Preventing Early Renal Loss (PERL) study.

Dr. Crandall also directs the Einstein-Sinai Diabetes Center’s Translational Research Core. Her research interests focus on age-related changes in glucose metabolism and the relationship between hyperglycemia and cardiovascular risk. Dr. Crandall has served on several grant review panels (NIH and ADA) and is active as a journal reviewer for the Journal of Gerontology and is a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Diabetes and its Complications. She currently serves on the American Diabetes Association’s Professional Practice Committee. Dr. Crandall is an attending physician at the Montefiore Medical Center Diabetes Clinic and maintains an active consultative practice in endocrinology.

Statins

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Many people with high cholesterol take drugs known as statins to help reduce cholesterol, fight the onset of heart disease, and prevent heart attacks and strokes. Statins are an essential treatment for millions of people.  But statins also can pose risks.

We have found that statins can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent in a population that’s already at high risk for diabetes.

Twenty million people suffer from Type 2 diabetes in the United States. It causes the body’s blood glucose, or sugar, to rise, which can affect the eyes, kidney, nerves, or heart.

Normally, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin, which helps the body use sugar for energy. People with Type 2 diabetes sometimes need to take extra insulin, or other medications, to keep blood glucose levels normal.

We enrolled over 3,000 people who were at high risk for diabetes in a prevention study conducted at 27 centers around the country and followed them for more than a decade.  Although not a part of the study, some of these individuals took statins prescribed by their own physician. We found that in this population, taking statins increased their risk of diabetes.

It’s possible that statins affect the production and secretion of insulin, leading to higher blood sugar levels.

Importantly, our study does not mean that people should stop using statins. Clearly, these drugs help reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke and death.

But it’s crucial that people taking statins have regular blood sugar tests and that their physicians monitor them for the development of diabetes. In addition, we continue to advise all of our patients to take steps to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and follow a diet low in fat and sugar.

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