Studies Investigate Whether Lipitor Causes Diabetes: What They Can Tell Us (And What They Can’t)
Written by Steve Fields on October 16, 2013
For a number of years, research and anecdotal reports have indicated a potential link between statins like Lipitor and diabetes. Concerns about this potential risk came to a head when, in 2012, the FDA advised individuals and their doctors that use of Lipitor and other statins could lead to increased blood sugar and, eventually, type 2 diabetes.
Armed with this knowledge, individuals who developed diabetes while taking Lipitor are now asking tough questions about this cholesterol drug and its manufacturer. Did Lipitor cause their diabetes? Did Pfizer know there was a risk? Could their illness have been prevented? Unfortunately, these questions do not have simple answers.
Below, we’ll look at what studies can tell us, and identify some questions that still don’t have clear answers.
Researchers Study Lipitor and Diabetes
The most significant conclusion of recent research into Lipitor and diabetes is that there does seem to be a link. In August 2012 The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and best respected medical journals, published an analysis of a major statin trial. For individuals with one or more risk factors for diabetes, the study found, diabetes incidence was increased 28% with Lipitor use.1
Another Lipitor and diabetes study, this one published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, had similar results; this study reported that Lipitor significantly decreased insulin sensitivity, a condition which can be a precursor to diabetes.2
Although these studies can tell us that there seems to be a link between diabetes and statins like Lipitor, they do not provide any information about why Lipitor might be raising blood sugar in some patients. Some scientists have hypothesized that there is a molecular effect of Lipitor that can increase blood sugar and cause diabetes, but exactly which mechanism is involved is unknown.
Individuals who took Lipitor and developed diabetes are, understandably, concerned by these findings. Some have even decided to pursue lawsuits against the manufacturer of Lipitor. These lawsuits allege that Pfizer was negligent in failing to warn about a potential risk of diabetes. If they had known about the risk, these plaintiffs argue, they would have reconsidered using Lipitor to control their cholesterol.
Who is At Risk?
Another important research finding is that women seem significantly more likely to develop diabetes while using Lipitor than men. A Lipitor-diabetes study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 had results which implied “that statin use conveys an increased risk of new-onset [type 2 diabetes] in women.”3 The researchers suggested that all medications in Lipitor’s class seem to increase the risk of diabetes in women.
While science can tell us that woman appear to be at a higher risk for Lipitor-related diabetes than men, there are limitations to these findings. Unfortunately, we still cannot predict precisely who will develop diabetes while taking a cholesterol drug like Lipitor. Instead, research can only indicate that, in a large group of women taking Lipitor, some will probably become diabetic.
For this reason, all women who use Lipitor to control their cholesterol should talk to their doctors about its risks and benefits. For some, especially those who have never had cardiovascular problems, Lipitor may not be the best choice for cholesterol management.
If you are a woman who developed diabetes while taking Lipitor, we’re here to help. Our law firm has experienced attorneys ready to offer their advice and help you determine whether a lawsuit is right for you. Fill out our contact form or call 1-888-210-9968 to get your questions answered today.