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Statin Drugs May Increase Risk for Cataracts, Especially in Diabetics

Jan 1, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

People suffering from type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer an age-related cataract if they are taking a statin drug to lower cholesterol levels.

According to a HealthDay News report on a new study from University of Waterloo in Canada, diabetics taking statin drugs are more likely to suffer a cataract than those who weren’t taking one of these cholesterol drugs. Overall, the study authors still believe there is still a clinical benefit to a person suffering from type 2 diabetes who takes a statin drug that outweighs the significant risk of suffering a cataract.

More than half of all diabetics are taking a statin drug, measured at 56 percent in the Canadian study which appears in the most recent edition of the journal Optometry and Vision Science. The risk of cataracts appears to be associated with age and diabetics taking a statin drug face a 50 percent probability of suffering a cataract by the time they turn 52 years old. For non-diabetics taking a statin drug, that age is 55. People who didn’t take a statin drug, the age at which they face a 1-in-2 chance of suffering a cataract is 55 for diabetics and almost 58 for non-diabetics.

The report details the findings of the study: “There was a significant correlation between type 2 diabetes and nuclear sclerosis (odds ratio [OR], 1.62) and cortical cataract (OR, 1.37). There was a significant correlation between statin use and nuclear sclerosis and posterior subcapsular cataract (OR, 1.48 for both).”

The study does provide more evidence highlighting the risks of drug side effects facing type 2 diabetics who often must take a litany of prescription medications to regulate blood sugar levels and to control other conditions that plague people suffering from the disease.

Millions of Americans currently suffer from the disease that’s caused primarily from poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, or heredity. It is believed that many more Americans will continue to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, who then are more likely to die due to heart disease, thus prompting them to take a statin drug. While 56 percent of diabetics take a statin drug, less than 20 percent of non-diabetics take a statin drug.

Some common name-brand versions of statin drugs include Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, and Baycol.

This study also provides more evidence regarding the overall risk of statin drugs. The Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning that taking these drugs at their highest doses increases the likelihood a person will experience myopathy, or severe muscle damage.

Statin drug use has also been associated with an increased risk of birth defects when they’re taken by expectant mothers during the earliest stages of a pregnancy.

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