Statins linked to increased risk of skin infections and diabetes

New Australian research led by Curtin University has found that people who have used statins for as little as three months have an increased risk of skin and soft tissue infections and diabetes.

The research, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, examined prescription claims from 2001 to 2011 from the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs to determine whether there was a link between statins, skin infections, and new-onset diabetes.

Lead author Humphrey Ko, from Curtin’s School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences and the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI), said although statins are commonly prescribed by health professionals around the world to treat cardiovascular diseases, there is increasing interest that these medications may also benefit other medical conditions.

“Staphylococcus aureus, also known as S. aureus, is a major cause of bacterial skin infections and statins have been reported to exert antibacterial effects against S. aureus, as well as reduce the risk of S. aureus-related blood infections. As such, it seemed plausible that statins may prove beneficial in S. aureus-related skin infections. However, statins may also induce new-onset diabetes, a condition which in turn is a risk factor for skin infections,” Mr Ko said.

“In light of the conflicting research on this topic, our study evaluated prescriptions for statins, antidiabetic medication, and antistaphylococcal antibiotics, investigating their interrelationships at three, six, and 12 months of use.

“We discovered that the use of statins for as little as three months was associated with an increased risk of diabetes and skin and soft tissue infections. We also found that the increased risk of skin infections appeared unbiased by diabetes or socioeconomic status.”

Mr Ko explained that the findings have important implications for health care professionals around the world who regularly prescribe statin medication for patients with cardiovascular medical conditions.

“The widespread use of statins will likely continue with guidelines across the world recommending statin use for prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Hence, there is a need for clinicians to be mindful that statin use may also be associated with diabetes, as well as a possible increased risk of skin infections. Statin users who are predisposed to diabetes would likely benefit from blood glucose monitoring,” Mr Ko said.

“Further research is needed to verify the link between statins and diabetes, statins and skin infections, as well as the influence of statins’ effect on human gut bacteria, vitamin D levels, and cholesterol inhibition on skin function.”

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