Cholesterol drugs, which are often a part of the class of drugs known as statins, are used to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood. Though some users experienced success with these drugs, others found the side effects triggered by the medications caused more harm than good. There is growing evidence use of statin drugs is linked to the development of diabetes and cardiomyopathy, as well as several other serious health concerns.
Popularity of Cholesterol Drugs
Cholesterol drugs are used by millions of Americans every day to manage their unhealthy cholesterol levels. And while many of these drugs are viewed favorably, there is growing concern over their prevalence of use. Critics are especially concerned of the growing trend for statin drugs to be used as preventative therapy for anyone over 50 – not just those with specific risk factors for cardiovascular issues linked to LDL cholesterol. Preventative use of statins dramatically increases use of the drugs, leading to a significant increase in side effects.
Brand name statin drugs include:
- Vytorin (combined statin and another drug)
Statins work by reducing the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver, which reduces a patient’s risk for heart attack and stroke. Many statin users experience mild to moderate side effects including nausea, vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, constipation, weakness, and muscle pain. The severity of these side effects varies from person to person and some find they are able to live with these symptoms, while others find them intolerable.
Serious Cholesterol Drug Side Effects
In addition to the mild to moderate side effects, many in the medical community are growing increasingly concerned by the more serious side effects associated with use of cholesterol drugs. Serious side effects include liver damage, memory loss, muscle damage, cardiomyopathy, and diabetes.
In 2012, the FDA announced some cholesterol drugs could be linked to an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. That same year the agency announced manufacturers of statin drugs would be required to include notice on drug labels of potential interactions between statin drugs and other medications. Finally, in October of that year, the FDA again updated its warning label requirements for statin drugs to include the risk of immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy.
In the last several years, the FDA has begun seriously investigating the potential for statins to increase a user’s risk for type 2 diabetes. An April 2015 study showed brand name cholesterol medications including Crestor, Lipitor, and Zocor could significantly increase a user’s risk for developing diabetes based on the review of data from approximately 26,000 statin users in the Tricare military health system. Previous studies had already shown cholesterol drugs have the ability to affect blood sugar levels, reduce sensitivity to insulin, and increase a user’s risk for diabetes by as much as 15 percent.
Cholesterol Drug Lawsuits
As a result of the link between cholesterol drugs and the risk for developing serious medical conditions, a number of lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers of these drugs.
As of 2014, Pfizer, maker of the world’s best-selling cholesterol drug Lipitor, had been named in more than 1000 lawsuits involving more than 4000 female statin users affected by type 2 diabetes. Those familiar with the cases predict as many as 10,000 users could eventually be involved in legal action.
Representatives from Pfizer have stated they believe the drug did not cause the plaintiffs’ diabetes, but instead, the women had pre-existing risk factors such as high blood pressure or obesity that made them vulnerable to the disease. The company pointed to what it called an “overwhelming consensus” in the medical community regarding the benefits of statins in defense of their drug.
Pfizer is not the only drug manufacturer affected by cholesterol drug lawsuits. AstraZeneca, makers of Crestor, another extremely popular cholesterol drug, faces similar legal challenges, as do the makers of Zetia, Fenofibrate, Lovaza, and Vytorin.
In all of the cases, plaintiffs allege the drug companies were aware of the risk, but withheld information from the medical community and consumers to protect sales.
Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.