Side effects of Lipitor, Zocor and other popular cholesterol drugs may increase the risk of skin infections, according to the findings of new research.
In a study published last month in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Australian researchers indicate that a class of cholesterol drugs, known as statins, appear to increase the risk of skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) for patients both with and without diabetes.
The study looked at data on prescription claims from 2001 through 2011, from the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs, looking for links between statins, skin infections and diabetes in data on more than 228,000 veterans and their spouses.
Researchers looked at prescription filings for the cholesterol drugs Lipitor, Lescol, Pravachol, Crestor, and Zocor. They also looked at prescriptions for diabetes medications and antibiotics used to treat SSTIs after 90-days, half a year, and a year of statin use.
According to their findings, statin use was linked to an increase of soft tissue and skin infections, regardless of whether the patient had diabetes or how long they had been taking it, from 90 days up to a year. Statins appeared to increase the risk by about 40%, with Lipitor and Zocor linked to the greatest risk of infections.
Researchers also found that the cholesterol drugs were linked with a significantly increased risk of diabetes, with Lipitor and Zocor again being associated with the highest risks.
“Our study supports the hypothesis that statin users are at increased risk of SSTIs and this risk was probably independent of diabetes status or the healthy user effect,” the researchers concluded. “Statins may increase SSTI risk via direct or indirect mechanisms.”
Cholesterol Drug Health Risks
There have been questions about the consequences of over prescription and overuse of statins for years, due to the large number of patients that have been prescribed cholesterol drugs like Lipitor and Zocor.
Many critics have raised concerns that statins are being pushed on the populace too heavily, in what is often referred to as the “statinization” of America. Those concerns came after guidelines issued by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, who indicated that statins are the only drugs doctors should prescribe to lower cholesterol and called for doctors to toss out
Statins are among the best-selling drugs in the United States, using the liver to block the body’s creation of cholesterol, which is a key contributor to coronary artery disease. However, a number of studies have linked the drugs to an increased risk of potentially serious injuries, including muscle damage, kidney problems and diabetes.
All statins carry warnings about the potential risk of serious muscle injury, known as myopathy. The most severe form of the muscle damage is rhabdomyolysis, which may lead to severe kidney damage, kidney failure and death.
More recently, Lipitor, Crestor and other statins have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, similar to the findings in this latest study. This resulted in the FDA requiring new warnings in February 2012 about potential impact the medications may have on blood sugar levels. Studies have suggested that otherwise healthy individuals who begin taking statins to reduce their risk of heart disease, may actually face an increased risk of diabetes, which itself increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.