Statins and Diabetes: New Guidelines Place More Women at Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
Written by Stephen Fields on March 31, 2014
The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology issued new statin guidelines last November, which recommended statins be prescribed to nearly half of the American population between the ages of 40 and 75. It is particularly troubling that these recommendations come without regard for statins and diabetes side effects that patients may experience, especially postmenopausal women who may have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Statin guidelines have a long history of controversy with regards to diabetes side effects. In 2011, practicing physician Mark Hyman, MD wrote an article in the Huffington Post which characterized the diabetes impact of the cholesterol treatment guidelines at the time.
“If all doctors followed the latest cholesterol treatment guidelines and all their patients took their prescribed statin medication, there would be 3.5 million more diabetics in America.” 1
That was before January 2012, when JAMA Internal Medicine published a study which indicated statin use in postmenopausal women is associated with an increased risk for dibetes mellitus.2 One month later, the FDA updated the Lipitor prescribing label to include an increased risk of raised blood sugar and the development of type 2 diabetes.3
The Statin and Diabetes Side Effects Controversy Continues
While there is no shortage of articles which debate the controversy surrounding the new statin guidelines, the New York Times article Don’t Give More Patients Statins, very clearly outlines the issues at hand, including the impact on healthy people who are now included in the recommendation.
At the Heart Sisters Blog, Carolyn Thomas very eloquently outlines the controversy as well, especially as it affects healthy women, in her December 2013 article Women, controversial statin guidelines, and common sense.
Thomas quotes an article by Barbara Roberts, MD, and Martha Rosenberg which points out that “women on statins in the Women’s Health Initiative who were of normal weight increased their risk of diabetes 89 percent compared to same-weight women not taking a statin.” 4
Older Women May Be At An Increased Risk Of Lipitor Diabetes Side Effects
Are postmenopausal women at a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes from the use of statins like Lipitor (atorvastatin)? That was the conclusion of a team of scientists in the study that appeared in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2012.
Since then, a rash of Lipitor diabetes lawsuit claims have been filed against the cholesterol drug’s manufacturer. The claimants allege that Lipitor caused them to develop diabetes and suffer its attendant side effects.
Suspicions about a connection between Lipitor and type 2 diabetes have circulated for years. Several medical journals have covered the issue. For example, a Lancet paper in 2010 analyzed the results of 13 prior studies examining the effects of statin use. The studies dated back to 1994. The Lancet authors found that individuals taking statins were at a 9 percent higher risk for the disease compared to those who were not taking such drugs.
Millions of people have used atorvastatin over the years without realizing they were exposed to a higher risk of diabetes. The drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996. It wasn’t until 2012 that the risk of the disease became common knowledge. That was the year the FDA alerted the public that it was a potential side effect of using Lipitor.
Thus far, the FDA has made no distinction between the risk for men and the risk for women. But the JAMA Internal Medicine investigation suggests that gender might play an important role.
Lipitor Use May Elevate Diabetes Risk Among Older Women
The JAMA study was based on a large population of women between the ages of 50 and 79. The initial group numbered 161,808. Data were taken from an earlier investigation conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).
Health records were examined for the women between 1993 and 1998. After weeding out those who showed a history of diabetes, as well as those for whom key data were missing, the JAMA researchers ended up with a population of 153,840.
The researchers compared the incidence rate of new-onset diabetes among the women who had used statins with the incidence rate among those who had not used them. Nearly 10 percent of the statin users developed the disease. Only 6.4 percent of the non-statin users did so. The researchers concluded that statin therapy was associated with a 50 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes among postmenopausal women.
The public’s exposure to the illness is substantial. Millions of men and women have used cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor since 1996. Unfortunately, the number of people who have developed diabetes while using them may never be known. Worse, many physicians continue to feel that the benefits of using statins outweigh the risks. Patients who have since been diagnosed as diabetics are likely to feel differently.
Serious Side Effects Linked To Lipitor Diabetes Risk
Unlike most drug-induced side effects, diabetes cannot be cured. The affected individual must live with the condition for the rest of her life. The fortunate ones rarely experience a flareup. They may never confront major complications that result in lifelong impairments. Most diabetics, however, are not so lucky. For them, the condition worsens gradually despite their taking measures to slow its progress.
In its advanced stages, type 2 diabetes can introduce health problems that range from serious to disabling. Persistent elevated levels of glucose in the bloodstream can eventually damage the blood vessels and prevent oxygen and nutrients from reaching key areas of the body.
Longtime diabetics often display signs of nerve damage, kidney trouble, and other problems. In the most severe cases, blood flow to the feet becomes so impaired that vascular damage warrants limb amputation.
Lipitor Lawsuits Filed By Healthy Women Suffering From Diabetes
It’s worth noting that many of the women who have developed diabetes while taking Lipitor are healthy. Their medical records showed no signs of being at risk for the disease. On the contrary, their weight and body mass index (BMI) have suggested a tendency toward exercise and eating the right foods.
This has raised questions about the risks of using atorvastatin. If healthy women are in danger of developing diabetes while using the drug, women who are overweight or live sedentary lives are presumably at an even greater risk.
Prior to 2012, Pfizer made no effort to warn the public that use of its cholesterol medication might increase the risk of diabetes. It continued to generate sales while allowing consumers to remain in the dark. The lack of disclosure may have put countless people at risk. Many who have already filed lawsuits claim they would have never used the drug if they had known that it could cause the disease.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and suspect it was triggered by Lipitor, you may be able to obtain compensation from the manufacturer. Contact an experienced Lipitor side effects lawyer to discuss your case. You deserve to be fairly compensated for the impact diabetes has had on your life.
There is limited time to file a claim. Call our offices today at 1-888-210-9968 to learn more about your legal options. There is no cost for the consultation and never any legal fees unless compensation is recovered for you.
1. Statins May Cause Diabetes, New Study Says
2. Statin Use and Risk of Diabetes Mellitus in Postmenopausal Women in the Women’s Health Initiative
3. FDA Expands Advice on Statin Risks
4. The American Heart Association–Protecting Industry Not Patients