Several studies have linked Lipitor and other cholesterol-lowering statin drugs to an increased risk of diabetes, particularly in middle-aged and older women.
It is believed that the maker of Lipitor, Pfizer, Inc., failed to properly warn consumers of this risk, which resulted in medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages for the women who developed diabetes as a result of taking Lipitor.
How is Lipitor Causing Diabetes?
Several studies have uncovered a link between Lipitor and Type 2 diabetes, a life-long condition that causes a patient to develop high blood sugar levels. To understand the potential link between Lipitor and Type 2 diabetes, it is important to understand the science behind the disease.
In the body, food is broken down into sugar (glucose), which travels through the bloodstream. In a normal patient, the pancreas will release insulin in response to a meal to reduce blood sugar levels and allow glucose to enter the body’s cells, providing them with the energy needed to function. Patients with Type 2 diabetes, however, cannot produce enough insulin or cannot use the insulin well enough. As a result, glucose cannot enter the body’s cells and instead builds up in the blood, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. High levels of sugar in the blood can result in a number of serious health problems, including organ damage and heart attack.
Researchers suspect that Lipitor can inhibit the function of the pancreatic cells responsible for storing and releasing insulin, and may also decrease the body’s sensitivity to the hormone.
Studies on Lipitor Highlight Diabetes Risk for Women, Statin Users
Even after the label change, Lipitor’s label still does not adequately warn patients about the risk of Type 2 diabetes
A number of studies have linked use of Lipitor and cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins to diabetes. In 2013, researchers in Canada found that patients taking Lipitor had a 22 percent increased risk of developing diabetes compared to those taking Pravachol, another drug used to lower cholesterol. Two years earlier, a study based on data from three large clinical trials also suggested that patients on a high-dose Lipitor regimen may have an increased risk of developing diabetes, especially if they have other risk factors for the disease. The trial included nearly 4,000 adults who did not have diabetes, but had a history of stroke. It is believed that women, including those with a healthy body mass index (BMI), are at the highest risk of developing diabetes from statin use.
FDA Warning Highlights Increased Diabetes Risk
In February 2012, the FDA released a statement on Lipitor and statins. The agency warned that patients taking these drugs may have an increased risk of developing high blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes, and announced that changes will be made to the drugs’ labeling to reflect this concern. According to an FDA spokesperson, prescribing doctors should assess patients’ blood sugar levels after they have started treatment with Lipitor or another statin.
The FDA warning also commented on the potential risk for liver injury, memory loss and muscle damage; however, the current litigation surrounding Lipitor pertains only to the manufacturer’s alleged failure to warn about the type 2 diabetes risk.