Does Lipitor cause Diabetes?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on February 28, 2012, that the prescribing information for Lipitor (atorvastatin) and other cholesterol reducing drugs in the statin class will include warnings about risk of increased blood sugar levels, increased HbA1c, and diagnoses of diabetes.
The Food and Drug administration used the Pravastatin or Atorvastatin Evaluation and Infection Therapy – Thrombolysis In Myocardial Infarction 22 (PROVE-IT TIMI 22) sub-study and a few other studies and reports to associate Lipitor and other statins with increased risk of diabetes. In PROVE-IT TIMI 22 study high-dose atorvastatin (Lipitor) was associated with increased blood glucose. Analysis of other published studies also showed that statins increase HbA1c and/or fasting blood glucose, and the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes regardless of the dose or statin used in the studies. Based on available evidence the FDA concluded that the public should be aware of this risk and the labeling information of statins was modified to include warnings about risk of diabetes. The FDA also pointed out that the risk is small and the new information should not scare patients.
Patients should also be aware that Lipitor in published studies reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for heart disease.
Lipitor has been used for many years by millions of people, including diabetics, and its benefit on preventing heart attacks and strokes outweighs the small increased risk of increased fasting blood glucose levels and diagnosis of diabetes. Therefore, there is no need to panic.
Most patients taking statins will not develop diabetes or experience an increase in blood glucose levels. There are other drug classes (for example, thiazide diuretics) that also increase blood glucose. They are still used because their benefits justify the risk. Healthcare providers screen for side effects and use alternative agents when needed. This should be viewed as another side effect that can be detected and managed.
Patients taking Lipitor who are concerned should have their blood glucose checked at their next scheduled doctor visit. Adhering to a healthy diet and regular exercise improves cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Sabatine MS, Wiviott SD, Morrow DA, McCabe CH, Cannon CP. High-dose atorvastatin associated with worse glycemic control: a PROVE-IT TIMI 22 substudy. Circulation. 2004;110(Suppl I):S834.