On February 28, 2012, the FDA announced that they had approved new safety warnings for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. These warnings applied to Zocor (simvastatin), as well as to Lipitor (atorvastatin), Crestor (rosuvastitin), and more. Specifically, the warnings alert patients and physicians to potential Zocor side effects like an increase in blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes.
The FDA’s action was based on scientific studies that had indicated a connection between statin drugs and diabetes. Though the risk of diabetes is apparently small, patients need to be aware when considering adding statin therapy to their daily regimen.
Studies link statin to Zocor diabetes
Potential Zocor side effects have long included muscle injury, muscle wasting (rhabdomyolysis), and even kidney failure and heart attack, but the potential risk of Zocor diabetes wasn’t discovered until fairly recently.
It was in February 2010 that the scientific journal Lancet published an analysis of 13 previously published clinical tests of statins involving more than 91,000 people. They found that those taking statins like Zocor experienced a 9 percent increased risk of diabetes, with those aged 60 and older being the most vulnerable.
A more recent analysis of five previously published studies involving over 30,000 participants that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (June 2011) found that people taking high doses of the statins were more likely to develop diabetes than those taking moderate doses.
More specifically, participants suffered a 12 percent increased risk. There was also an increased risk for those on moderate doses.
An increased risk for side effects connected to muscle injury was also related to high doses—80 mg—of Zocor, which led the FDA to limit the use of this dose.
Zocor diabetes a serious risk
Though most health experts agree that the benefits of Zocor and other statins far outweigh the risks, others recommend caution. Writing for the New York Times, Eric J. Topol warns that the risk of Zocor diabetes could be higher than the studies indicate.
He notes that in the 2010 analysis, the risk of developing diabetes was one in every 255 patients treated, “[b]ut this figure is misleading since it includes weaker statins like Prevachol and Mevacor—which were introduced earlier and do not carry any clear-cut risk. It is only with the more potent statins—Zocor, Lipitor, and Crestor—particularly at higher doses, that the risk of diabetes shows up.”
Evaluating Zocor side effects
Diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition. The disease affects the way the body uses food for growth and energy, and can lead to cardiovascular disease, nerve and kidney damage, and even increase the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.