Researchers from the University of California in San Diego indicate that some popular cholesterol drugs may raise aggressive tendencies among women, while decreasing those tendencies in men.
In a study published last week in the science journal PLOS One, doctors are being urged to make sure patients are aware of the potential aggression side effects associated with the use of popular cholesterol fighting drugs known as statins.
Statins generate combined sales of more than $14.5 billion per year, and are used 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 memory loss, muscle damage, kidney problems, and diabetes. The drugs include some of the most widely recognized brand name drugs in the U.S., including Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, Vytorin, Prevachol and others.
In this latest study, researchers conducted a double-blind sex-stratified clinical trial on 1,016 adults, including 692 men and 324 postmenopausal women. Some of the subjects were given Zocor (simvastatin), others Pravachol (pravastatin), and some were given a placebo for six months. The researchers then assessed changes in aggression using what’s known as the Overt-Aggression-Scale-Modified-Aggression-Subscale (OASMa).
“In men, statins tended to decrease aggression, significantly so on pravastatin,” the researchers found, with those under the age of 40 experiencing greater reductions in aggression. “Statins (especially simvastatin) lowered testosterone, and increased sleep problems. Testosterone-drop on statins predicted aggression-decline.”
For women, the drugs appeared to have the opposite effect in the test, except for younger, surgically menopausal woman.
“The increase was significant, without exclusions, for women of more typical postmenopausal age,” the researchers concluded. “The aggression-increase in women on statins was stronger in those with low baseline aggression.”
Although statins are widely recommended within the medical community, they have been linked to several potential side effects.
The FDA has warned that statins may increase the risk of cognitive problems, and a study published in April also identified potential cognitive side effects of statins, along with an increased risk of diabetes, which researchers indicated may make the risks outweigh the benefits in some cases.
In February 2012, the FDA required the makers of 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.