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Pravastatin May Cut Diabetes Risk in Men

Kate Traynor

A study designed to test the ability of pravastatin to prevent coronary heart disease produced an unexpected finding: The drug seems to cut the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in men.

Between Feb. 1, 1989, and May 1995, over 6,000 men with an average plasma cholesterol level of 272 mg/dL participated in the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study. The men, ages 45 to 64, were randomly assigned to receive either pravastatin or a placebo, and each group's risk of myocardial infarction and other coronary events was compared.

An unplanned analysis of the study data revealed that the risk of diabetes was 30 percent lower in the pravastatin group than in the placebo group. These findings were reported in the Jan. 23 issue of Circulation (PDF).

The retrospective analysis examined fasting blood-glucose (FBG) levels for 5,974 nondiabetic men who had at least two such measurements made after assignment to the pravastatin or placebo group. FBG levels for 139 of these men later rose by at least 2.0 mmol/L, reaching 7.0 mmol/L or greater. These men were classified as having developed diabetes.

The study authors proposed that pravastatin’s observed protection against the onset of diabetes may be related to the triglyceride-lowering effect of the drug. Another possible protective mechanism may be related to pravastatin’s anti-inflammatory properties.

The research team acknowledged that it based its finding on a relatively small number of men whose FBG levels met the study's definition of diabetes. Therefore, the team suggests that additional studies be undertaken to confirm the association between pravastatin use and diabetes prevention. An editorial in the same issue of Circulation further cautioned that the protective effect of pravastatin barely passed the threshold of statistical significance and that the association needs confirmation.