The effect of statin treatment on glucose metabolism and the risk of diabetes remains an issue of controversy. Since statins are drugs commonly prescribed for the prevention of cardiovascular disease even in patients with prediabetes or diabetes, it is of great importance to identify the role of statin treatment on glucose homeostasis. In this review, we have scrutinized available data with regard to the effect of every drug of the class on glycemic outcomes. Experimental data describing mechanisms through which these drugs potentially modify the metabolism of carbohydrates have been described. In order to identify statins which may be preferentially used to improve parameters of glycemic control, studies comparing different agents of this class as to their effect on glucose homeostasis have been discussed.
According to experimental studies statin lipophilicity as well as the potential to inhibit 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutarylcoenzyme A reductase should be regarded as prognostic factors of an adverse impact of statin treatment on carbohydrate metabolism. On the other hand, the hypotriglyceridemic capacity, the endothelial-dependent increase in pancreatic islet blood flow, the anti-inflammatory properties along with the capacity of statins to alter circulating levels of several adipokines known to affect glucose homeostasis, including adiponectin, leptin, visfatin and resistin, may beneficially alter glycemic status.
In clinical trials, a beneficial, neutral or adverse impact on glycemic control of different populations has been ascribed to various statins. From all drugs of the class pravastatin seems to beneficially affect glucose metabolism and decrease the risk of diabetes. Controversial findings have come to the fore with regard to other statins commonly prescribed in the clinical setting, including rosuvastatin, atorvastatin and simvastatin. More data are needed to clarify the exact role of lovastatin, fluvastatin and the newest statin pitavastatin on carbohydrate metabolism. Comparison trials suggest a potential preferable effect of the hydrophilic statins pravastatin, rosuvastatin and pitavastatin as compared to lipophilic components of the class, including atorvastatin and simvastatin.