Lipitor and Diabetes

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring manufacturers of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs to place warning labels on their products alerting consumers and medical providers to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Statins have been available to treat high cholesterol since the 1980s, but only recently was the link between statins and diabetes discovered. The warning labels come in the wake of several large-scale studies that revealed previously unknown risks associated with taking what turns out to be a dangerous drug for some people.

In particular, the more potent statins such as Lipitor, one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, are associated with an increased risk of developing adult-onset diabetes, known as Type 2. A 2010 study looked at 91,000 patients who had either been treated with statins or with a sugar pill (placebo). Those treated with the statin were considerably more likely to develop diabetes, especially those patients taking the more powerful, more recently developed statins. It is estimated that one in every 200 patients treated with the big three statins – Lipitor (Pfizer), Crestor (AtraZeneca) and Zocor (Merck)- will develop diabetes. That’s 100,000 new cases of the disease potentially waiting to develop.

Patients who already have an increased risk for diabetes – those with excess weight, high blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, smoking and high blood pressure – are particularly at risk. Additionally, it has also been found that postmenopausal women with other risk factors have a 46 percent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes when taking Lipitor than do those taking a placebo. Moreover, the risk of diabetes increases significantly in both men and women the higher the dose of Lipitor taken.

People without the risk factors might consider trying other methods of dealing with high cholesterol such as diet and exercise to avoid the risk of diabetes. Those with risk factors for stroke and heart disease are advised to continue with statins, as the risk of heart disease and stroke is greater than the risk for diabetes, according to medical experts.

It is still not known why statins cause diabetes, even though study results have been out for some time. Today, annual sales of Lipitor and its generic version artovastatin are in excess of $130 billion. And it is taken by more than 20 million people. The drug was approved by the FDA in 1996.

The link between Lipitor and statin drugs first emerged in a 2008 study of Crestor. An article in the Lancet reported that statins such as Cestor could raise the risk of diabetes by nine percent.

If you have taken Lipitor and have developed Type 2 diabetes, contact the attorneys at Elk & Elk to learn about your options.