Lipitor is the No. 1 prescription drug in the history of prescription drugs. By the end of 2012, cumulative Lipitor sales exceeded a staggering $141 billion. More than 29 million people in the U.S., including hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma residents, have taken Lipitor to treat high cholesterol, in hopes of lowering their risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease.
However, more than 800 federal lawsuits are now pending against Pfizer, Inc., which manufactures Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium). Plaintiffs in the lawsuits claim that taking Lipitor caused them to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious health condition. There is no cure, but rather a lifetime of lifestyle changes, medication, self-monitoring and doctor’s visits. Complications include:
- Hypo- and hyperglycemia (low and high blood sugar)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Poor circulation and neuropathy (nerve damage), which can lead to foot ulcers and amputation
- Dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke
- Retina damage and blindness
- Kidney disease
These complications can be debilitating, may require hospitalization and surgeries, and can result in death. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S.
FDA Lipitor Warning
The FDA approved Lipitor for the U.S. market in 1996. However, several studies in recent years have raised questions about use of the cholesterol drug. In February 2012, the FDA required Pfizer and other manufacturers of high-potency statins to change their warning labels to include information about the risk of Type 2 diabetes. The FDA warning also mentions the risk of liver injury, memory loss and muscle damage associated with statins.
One significant study, published in the British Medical Journal in May 2013, found that use of a high-potency statin such as Lipitor significantly increased the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, compared to use of a lower-potency statin such as Pravachol (pravastatin).
Statins are a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs, including the high-dose statins Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor and the lower-dose statin, Pravachol.
The researchers analyzed the records of almost half a million patients in Ontario, Canada. The patients were ages 66 years or older, had been prescribed a statin, and did not have diabetes when the statin was first prescribed. The researchers found that patients taking Lipitor were 22% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than patients taking Pravachol. Crestor and Zocor also had an increased risk compared to Pravachol, though not as high as the risk with Lipitor.
The researchers discovered that for every 1,000 patients taking one of the high-potency statins, six to 10 patients developed Type 2 diabetes. That’s one out of 100. To an individual patient, one out of 100 may sound like low risk. However, with tens of millions of people taking Lipitor, those numbers, if the study is correct, calculate to tens of thousands of Lipitor users developing Type 2 diabetes.
A more recent study, published in the British Medical Journal this May, changed many of the variables. Patients were 40 years or older and had all been hospitalized with a heart problem. The study reached a similar conclusion: the use of Lipitor and other high-potency statins increases the likelihood of Type 2 diabetes. Patients taking high-dose statins as opposed to Pravachol were 15% more like to be diagnosed with diabetes within two years.
A January 2012 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that post-menopausal women (i.e., women over age 50) are especially vulnerable to the increased risk of developing diabetes after taking statins such as Lipitor.
Hundreds of lawsuits now claim that Pfizer knew that its product caused a change in blood sugar levels and increased the risk of Type 2 diabetes, but did not make that information public. Many of the lawsuits also contend that Pfizer did not provide adequate warnings on its labeling, even after the FDA required a label change in 2012.
Federal Lawsuits Consolidated
In February 2014, more than 200 federal lawsuits from across the country were consolidated into a federal multi-district litigation (MDL). An MDL is not a class action. Each lawsuit is handled individually, but they are all handled in the same federal court to streamline pre-trial motions and discovery. MDL-2502, titled Lipitor (Atorvastatin Calcium) Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation (No. II), is assigned to the U.S. District Court of South Carolina before Judge Richard Gergel.
In the four months since consolidation, the number of cases had grown from 200+ to 846 as of June 16, the most recent monthly update from the MDL panel. A previous attempt to consolidate federal Lipitor cases was denied in August 2013, because the MDL panel said there were not enough cases to justify consolidation.
If You Were Hurt by Lipitor, our Attorneys Can Help
If you or a loved one has taken Lipitor and have subsequently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you may be eligible for compensation to help with the many financial consequences of your health condition.
An award for damages could include payment for your medical care, lost wages, pain and suffering and other harms and losses due to having diabetes. If a jury concludes that Pfizer had important information that it did not make public, the award could also include punitive damages.
For a free consultation about your legal rights, contact us at Hasbrook and Hasbrook by telephone (866-416-4737), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by using our website.