Statins, commonly taken to reduce cholesterol, may increase the risk for skin infections.
Statins are known to increase the risk for diabetes, and diabetes increases the risk for staphylococcus infections of the skin and underlying soft tissue. But a new study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology suggests that the effect of statins on infection may also be independent of diabetes.
Researchers used data from the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs from 2001 to 2011 to track prescriptions for statins and match them with prescriptions for anti-diabetic medicines and prescriptions for antibiotics used to treat staph infections.
Statin use, unsurprisingly, was associated with an increased risk for diabetes. But statin users had about a 40 percent increased relative risk for staph infections, and that risk was similar in patients with or without diabetes.
Atorvastatin (brand name Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor) had the strongest associations with skin infections. The risk was greatest in the three months after starting the medicines, and declined with time, but was still significant at one year.
Humphrey H.T. Ko of Curtin University in Perth, Australia, the study’s lead author, said that no one should stop taking statins because of the risk of infection.
“People taking statins should continue their medication as prescribed and discuss any concerns with their physicians,” he said in an email message, “because the benefits of statins still largely outweigh the risk of diabetes and/or skin infections.”