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A class of drugs geared toward lowering blood cholesterol, statins have been on the market for a number of years. Yet, while Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor make millions for drug companies each year, multiple studies have associated this class with serious, life-threatening side effects, including cardiomyopathy and diabetes.
With some drugs approved as early as the mid 1990s, millions of Americans use statins and prescriptions continue to rise.
On a very general level, all drugs in this class assist with treating atherosclerosis, a condition that could lead to chest pain, heart attacks and strokes, by reducing the amount of cholesterol the liver produces. In turn, cholesterol won’t build up on the artery walls.
Statins include the following brand and generic varieties:
- Altoprev (lovastatin extended-release)
- Crestor (rosuvastatin)
- Lescol (fluvastatin)
- Lipitor (atorvastatin)
- Mevacor (lovastatin)
- Pravachol (pravastatin)
- Zocor (simvastatin)
Additionally, two other cholesterol-controlling drugs use statins within their formulas:
Yet, significantly higher diabetes risks came to light after the JUPITER Study emerged in 2006. Researchers here found patients’ risks for newly developed diabetes went up 25 percent, compared to those taking a placebo. Not long after, six other studies discovered a similar link. Specifically, that a patient’s risk for new onset diabetes grew 13 percent once using statins.
The FDA issued an official warning in 2012, stating that statins use increases a patient’s risk of developing diabetes mellitus, or Type II diabetes. Yet, because the FDA claims the risk is small, they won’t pull the drugs. Instead, they expanded their recommendations for use.
Since the FDA’s announcement, other studies have indicated the risk may in fact be significant. British and Canadian studies published in 2014 found that roughly three percent of all patients given a statin may be diagnosed with diabetes. An additional 15 percent, compared to the 2.4 percent given a placebo, have a greater risk of developing diabetes two years after taking the drug.
Supporting these findings, a 2015 Diabetologia study assessed 9,000 patients given statins over a six-year period. Certain individuals saw their risk increase as much as 46 percent. Researchers further discovered that larger doses increase a patient’s risk and further reduce insulin sensitivity and secretion over time.
That same year, Veterans Affairs researchers published a study in theJournal of General Internal Medicine that showed similar results in a pool of 26,000 Tricare military members with no history of diabetes.
Increased diabetes isn’t the only risk associated with statins:
- Drug interactions with fibrates, niacin, Ranexa or Colchicine have potential to result in muscle injuries.
- Patients may develop immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy (IMNM), an autoimmune myopathy characterized by proximal muscle weakness and increased serum creatine kinase. Symptoms may not stop when the patient discontinues taking a statin.
- Cardiomyopathy risks, including weakening or a change in the heart muscle’s structure, which prevents the heart from adequately pumping blood.
- Liver issues
Since the studies were released, thousands of patients have come forward to file lawsuits against manufacturers. Plaintiffs allege manufacturers should have been aware and informed doctors and patients about the increased diabetes risks. Although most suits remain at the state level, courts have consolidated some into multi-district litigation (MDL).