Canadian researchers are adding to the growing body of evidence suggesting that popular cholesterol drugs, such as Lipitor and Crestor, actually increase the risk diabetes, which raises serious health concerns given the millions of Americans taking the medications.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on May 29, indicating that patients taking high doses of statins face a statistically significant increased risk of being diagnosed with diabetes.
While Lipitor and Crestor are typically prescribed as a precautionary measure for individuals with high cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease, a diabetes diagnosis may lead to a raft of health problems, including a risk of blindness and the heart disease they were attempting to avoid.
Researchers looked at data on more than 100,000 patient records collected by the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies, which included anonymous patients from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
An analysis of the data found that users of high potency statin, which include Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor, may face a 15% increased risk of being diagnosed with diabetes diagnosis within two years of starting treatment. The researchers estimate that for every 350 patients given a high potency statin instead of a low potency statin, one of them will contract diabetes.
Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor are not only high potency statins, but they are also among the most popular drugs in the class. All other statin-based medications were considered to be lower potency cholesterol drugs
The study comes less than three months after researchers in the U.K. reached similar conclusions. In their study, published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, researchers from the National heart and Lung Institute in Imperial College London found that 3% of those taking statins were later diagnosed with diabetes, compared to only 2.4% who were given a placebo.
Crestor, Lipitor Diabetes Concerns
Statins are among the best-selling drugs in the United States, with more than $14.5 billion in combined sales each year.
The drugs use the liver to block the body’s creation of cholesterol, which is a key contributor to coronary artery disease. Although the medications are widely used, a number of studies have linked statins to an increased risk of potentially serious injuries, including muscle damage, kidney problems, and diabetes.
In February 2012, the FDA required the makers of Lipitor, Crestor and other statins to add new warnings about the potential impact of the medication on blood glucose levels. However, many critics have suggested that the warnings are not strong enough for certain medications, indicating that users and the medical community should be provided with more accurate information about the diabetes risks with Lipitor, Crestor and other statins.
Pfizer currently faces hundreds of Lipitor diabetes lawsuits filed by women throughout the United States, who allege that the drug maker knew or should have known about risks associated with their medication for years, but withheld diabetes warnings to avoid a negative impact on sales and growth of the blockbuster medication.
AstraZeneca also faces a number of Crestor lawsuits filed on behalf of former users of the cholesterol drug who were diagnosed with diabetes. Most of those cases are currently pending in California state court.
Late last year, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology called for new heart guidelines which some say would put millions of additional Americans on Lipitor, Crestor and other cholesterol drugs indefinitely. The recommendations suggest that statins should be the only drugs doctors prescribe to lower cholesterol levels and call for doctors to toss out cholesterol goal numbers, potentially keeping patients on the drugs permanently. Critics have suggested that the recommendations will result in the “statinization” of America.