New research suggests that side effects of widely used cholesterol drugs like Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor may increase a woman’s risk of developing thyroid cancer.
In a study published in the medical journal Clinical Endocrinology, researchers from Taipei Medical University Hospital indicate that regular use of statin-based drugs may be associated with a 40% increased thyroid cancer risk.
Statins are among the most widely used medications in the world, and the findings come as some health organizations are pushing new guidelines that may result in millions of new statin users being placed on the drugs indefinitely.
Researchers contacted 500 subjects with thyroid cancer and 2,500 without. They found that prior statin use was linked to a 39% higher chance of having thyroid cancer. However, when they broke down the numbers further, they found that it was specifically regular female statin users who faced the increased risk. Male users and irregular users of either gender did not appear to be affected.
The study does not go as far as finding a causal link between statins and thyroid cancer however, but the findings do add to the concerns about the potential “statinization” of America that may result from recent guidelines issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC). The groups indicate that statins are the only drugs doctors should prescribe to lower cholesterol and call for doctors to toss out traditional cholesterol goal numbers, potentially keeping patients on the drugs permanently.
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 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.