Cholesterol-Lowering Lipitor Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently required manufacturers of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs to place warning labels on their products so consumers and doctors are aware of the increase of developing adult-onset diabetes, also known as Type 2 diabetes.

But how high are the risks of developing diabetes after consuming statins? A 2010 study revealed that an estimated one in 200 patients treated with the “big three” statins (Pfizer’s Lipitor, AstraZeneca’s Crestor, and Merck’s Zocor) will develop diabetes. Based on the number of statin consumers, that’s approximately 100,000 new cases of diabetes. The study examined 91,000 patients, all of which were either given statins, or a placebo (sugar pill). Those treated with the statin were considerably more likely to develop diabetes, not to mention those who took the more powerful, recently developed statins.

Statins have been on the market for the treatment of high cholesterol since the 1980s, but only recently the link between statins and diabetes was discovered (as the manufacturers claim). All of a sudden, the warning labels are needed, since several large studies have revealed that the associated risks with taking statins are much greater than what the statin industry previously advised the public and medical community.

Patients who already are at an increased risk for diabetes, such as those with excess weight, high blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure, are particularly at risk. It has also been determined that postmenopausal women with other risk factors are at a 46% higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes when taking Lipitor than those taking a placebo. Those taking the higher dose of Lipitor have even a slightly higher risk of developing diabetes. It is the opinion of medical experts that patients with risk factors for stroke and heart disease are advised to continue taking statins, as the risk of heart disease and stroke is greater than the risk of diabetes.

No one is really sure why statins cause diabetes; however, only time will tell whether Pfizer’s internal industry documents reveal how long they knew of Lipitor’s diabetes risk before they opened their mouths to the FDA and medical community.

As Lipitor is one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, news of these studies is leading some to believe that its manufacturers were aware of the risks all along, yet chose to keep quiet, to benefit their wallets, at the peril of the consumers. Lipitor’s annual sales, as well as its generic, Artovastatin, exceed $130 billion, and are taken by over 20 million people.

Is Pfizer placing profits over public health? If Pfizer knew of the increased risk of diabetes and failed to disclose the information to the public, would doctors still have prescribed it? Should they be held accountable to those who now suffer from diabetes? We would like your thoughts.

Feel free to comment on this blog post. For more information, contact a Gacovino Lake attorney at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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