Two new studies raise questions about whether popular statin-based cholesterol drugs, such as Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor, may interfere with the effectiveness of influenza vaccines, or flu shots.
One of the studies focused on the impact of the statins overall on flu shots and the other focused specifically on the elderly. Both were published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases on October 28.
Researchers found that Lipitor, Crestor and other similar statin cholesterol drugs were associated with reduced influenza vaccine effectiveness against medically attended acute respiratory illness (MAARI).
The studies looked at databases covering nine influenza seasons and statin prescription statuses in the elderly study, which involved data on 7,000 people. The other team looked at data on 140,000 patients in Georgia. The findings suggest that the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine appears to be lower in those who are using statins. However, researchers said their findings should just be the gateway to more involved studies.
At issue is the fact that nearly half of the U.S. population above the age of 75 take statins, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The elderly are also more vulnerable to the health effects of the flu.
“This apparent immunosuppressive effect of statins on the vaccine immune response was most dramatic in individuals receiving synthetic statins,” the researchers concluded. “These effects were seen in both the adjuvanted and unadjuvanted vaccine groups in the clinical trial. These results, if confirmed, could have implications both for future clinical trials design, as well as for vaccine use recommendations for elderly individuals.”
Statin Diabetes Lawsuits
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.
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.