Lipitor Use Linked to Increased Type 2 Diabetes Risk in New Study By Tod Aronovitz | 06/14/13 | 0 Comment

A class of drugs known as statins, which reduce the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) ‘bad’ cholesterol, has been put under the magnifying glass by consumers as recent studies suggest these medicines may be linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

In a study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Lipitor (known generically as atorvastatin) was associated with the highest risk of developing diabetes in post-menopausal women.

The trial found that women who take Lipitor and other statin drugs, such as Crestor (rosuvastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin), were close to 50 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than women who did not take these drugs. In another study, Lipitor users experienced a 22 percent increased risk for diabetes when compared with patients who took a different cholesterol medication.

A third study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, analyzed data from three clinical trials comparing high-dose atorvastatin (80 milligrams) with either a lower dose statin or placebo in people with cardiovascular disease. In the trial with the placebo group, the study found atorvastatin users had a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over a five-year period: slightly fewer than 9 percent did, versus 6 percent of the placebo group.

In a different study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers found that many doctors prescribed Lipitor to patients who had a relatively low risk of developing heart disease, raising concern about misleading direct-to-consumer marketing that may increase the likelihood of patients pressuring their doctors to prescribe unnecessary medications.

Manufactured by Pfizer, Lipitor was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in 1996 and became the top-selling pharmaceutical brand, generating more than $125 billion in sales before a generic version became available in 2011. In 2012, the FDA required Pfizer to update the Lipitor label to warn about an increased risk of diabetes that is associated with the drug.

Many women who took Lipitor and developed Type 2 diabetes are now filing lawsuits alleging that Pfizer knew about the connection between Lipitor and potential for Type 2 diabetes before it was on the market, but failed to properly warn consumers even after it was required to have a statement on its product labeling.

Due to potential mounting Lipitor lawsuits, cases have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL). Pfizer opposes the MDL, fearing it will be filled with questionable claims.

In its latest recommendations, the FDA is advising consumers and health care professionals that:

  • People being treated with statins may have an increased risk of raised blood sugar levels and the development of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Routine monitoring of liver enzymes in the blood, once considered standard procedure for statin users, is no longer needed. Such monitoring has not been found to be effective in predicting or preventing the rare occurrences of serious liver injury associated with statin use.
  • Cognitive (brain-related) impairment, such as memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion, has been reported by some statin users.
  • Some medications interact with lovastatin (brand names include Mevacor) and can increase the risk of muscle damage.

Patients should not stop taking Lipitor, or other cholesterol-lowering medications, without talking about their concerns to their health care professionals first.

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