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Drugs that help lower cholesterol may also prevent nerve damage in those with diabetes, new research suggests. In an 8-year study, treatment with either a statin or fibrate significantly reduced the risk of developing peripheral neuropathy in people with type 2 diabetes.


Researchers followed a group of about 400 people with type 2 diabetes. They found that statin drugs typically used to reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein cut the risk of developing peripheral neuropathy by 35%. Fibrates, used to increase levels of high-density lipoprotein and reduce triglyceride levels, cut the risk by 48%. Due to a wide overlapping margin of error, researchers say the drugs were about equally effective.


People in the study were taking atorvastatin (Lipitor), pravastatin, or simvastatin. Fibrate drugs included gemfibrozil and fenofibrate. Because each class of drug works by different means, combination therapy may produce more benefits, researchers say.


Most people with diabetes already take statins to prevent heart complications, researchers noted. They reported their findings in June at the American Diabetes Association 2007 Scientific Sessions in Chicago, Ill.