Cholesterol drug ups diabetes risk

There may soon be changes in the labelling of widely-used cholesterollowering drugs - statins - sold in the country. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that patients taking statins may face a "small increased risk" of higher blood-sugar levels and diabetes.

Doctors here said that these warnings need to be taken seriously as Indians are at a high risk of the killer disease, but those prescribed with statins should not stop taking them.

Statins, when used with diet and exercise , help to lower a person's "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Statins include blockbusters like Lipitor (atorvastatin) - the world's largest selling drug with annual sales of around $12 billion - and other brands and generic versions like simvastatin, pravastatin and rosuvastatin . The issue has been debated for years with several studies also conducted to research whether there was an increased risk of diabetes by taking statins.

Says Anoop Misra, chairman of Fortis-C-DOC , "These FDA regulations are a mixed bag of news; good news is that we don't have to monitor liver functions often; the bad news is increased diabetes in those who use statins, and in whom these drugs are universally required. "

The FDA wants drug companies to add these warnings on labels of these cholesterol-lowering drugs. The drugs regulator here is expected to follow suit within a few months in India too, experts say. There are over a dozen domestic companies including Ranbaxy, Dr Reddy's , Cipla, Glenmark, Sun Pharma, Lupin, USV, Zydus and Torrent selling generic versions of the drug.

But the FDA said it also wants to assure users that these medications continue to provide an important health benefit of lowering cholesterol.

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