Lipitor May Lead to Diabetes in Women

A recent series of studies suggests that cholesterol-lowering statins, particularly the popular drug Lipitor, can cause a significantly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in female patients. The studies focused on middle aged and older women without a previous history of diabetes. Women taking the statins such as Lipitor were almost 50% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those women who were not on statin drugs. While there are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, scientists conducting the studies took into account risk factors such as obesity, older age, and lack of physical activity. Even when taking into account these factors, cholesterol-lowering statins still posed a 50% increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolized sugar, or glucose. If left untreated, diabetes can cause severe medical complications. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can develop slowly, and a patient often goes years without knowing she has the disease. Symptoms that indicate type 2 diabetes might include increased thirst and urination, increased hunger, weight loss despite eating more than normal, fatigue and irritability, blurred vision, slow healing sores, or even acanthosis nigicans, a conditions that causes the skin in the armpits and neck to darken and fold. Once diagnosed, type 2 diabetes can cause a number of severe health complications. These complications include heart and blood vessel disease, which increases a patients risk of heart attack, stroke, and developing high blood pressure. In addition, patients can develop nerve damage that begins as a tingling or burning pain in the fingers or toes that gradually spreads, kidney damage that could be severe enough to require a transplant, eye damage that can lead to blindness, or other serious conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma, osteoporosis, hearing impairment or even skin and mouth conditions.

While each of these studies suggests that the benefits of taking the cholesterol-lowering statins in most cases significantly outweigh the risks incurred by the patient, the FDA did not hesitate to put out a warning to the public. In February of 2012, the FDA issued a drug safety communication mandating several safety label changes for Lipitor and similar drugs. To this date, however, the Lipitor label still fails to point out the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.1

Sources:Boyles, Study: Middle Aged, Older Statin Users Had More Type 2 Diabetes, WEBMD HEALTH NEWS (January 9, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/news/20120109/statins-may-raise-diabetes-risk-in-older-women;
Type 2 Diabetes, MAYO CLINIC HEALTH INFORMATION, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-2-diabetes/DS00585;
Lipitor Tied to Diabetes Risk, More Evidence Shows, THE HUFFINGTON POST (March 29, 2011) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/29/lipitor-tied-to-diabetes_n_842064.html;
Alonso Kragle, Lipitor Diabetes Lawsuit Filed by South Carolina Woman Who Developed Type 2 Diabetes Allegedly Due to Lipitor Use, P.R. WEB (April 24, 2013) http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/4/prweb10663171.htm;
Could Statins Raise Diabetes Risk?, U.S. NEWS (May 24, 2013) http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/05/24/could-statins-raise-diabetes-risk.
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