New paper questions evidence behind common cardiovascular treatment for type 2 diabetics

People with type 2 diabetes are known to be at a significantly greater risk of suffering a heart attack, particularly if they have high cholesterol. However, a new paper suggests that there is little evidence to support the use of a common treatment aimed at reducing cardiovascular risk in these patients.

A combination of fibrates and statins is widely used to treat heart disease risk in diabetes patients with unhealthy cholesterol. Fibrates are known to bring down a person's triglycerides while boosting levels of HDL, or good cholesterol. Meanwhile, statins have been shown to be the most effective medication to lower LDL, or bad cholesterol. Collectively, it is thought that these benefits should greatly reduce a person's heart attack and stroke risk.

However, a team of researchers from Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that there is virtually no evidence to support these apparent benefits. This is because the medication combination has rarely been evaluated in a clinical setting.

Each of the drugs has been proven to independently produce the effects mentioned above. However, taking two medications together does not always guarantee a coupling of their benefits. Sometimes, ingredients in drugs can cancel each other out. The researchers wrote in their report that there have been few studies to evaluate the effects produced from pairing statins and fibrates in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

"Thousands and thousands of Americans take fibrates every day but so far, there are no long-term studies showing that fibrates lower cardiovascular risk or improve survival among diabetes patients who are also on statins," said Sanjay Kaul, who authored the paper.

The statement stopped short of suggesting that doctors completely stop prescribing the medication combination. However, it did say that until more research is conducted to prove the efficacy of statin-fibrate combinations in type 2 diabetics, medical professionals should only administer the treatment to patients who are at the greatest risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.