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Most Americans are worried about having high cholesterol, which can cause heart attack and stroke. So when pharmaceutical companies developed prescription drugs (statins) intended to treat high cholesterol levels, doctors were glad to have them in their arsenal – especially when the manufacturers said there were few, if any, side effects.
One such drug was Lipitor (atorvastatin), manufactured by Pfizer, which came onto the market in the late 1990’s. It became one of the best-selling prescription drugs of all time.
Unfortunately, research began to show a link between Lipitor and an increased incidence of type 2 diabetes. One study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in January 2012, found that women between the ages of 50 and 79 who took statin medicines like Lipitor were 48 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who did not. It also found that women above the age of 63, those who have a body mass index (BMI) below 25, and those of Asian descent have the highest risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes from statin drugs.
In response to the reported link between statins and diabetes, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Consumer Alert in 2012 stating, “People being treated with statins may have an increased risk of raised blood sugar levels and the development of Type 2 diabetes.” Lipitor was one of the drugs implicated, and the package insert now has to notify the consumer of the potential danger.
People who have type 2 diabetes frequently don’t know about it until they have already experienced health complications. The symptoms usually develop gradually, and about a third of all people who have type 2 diabetes don’t know they have it. Here are some symptoms to watch for:
If you have experienced these symptoms, contact your health care provider. They can give you a blood sugar test. In fact, the American Diabetes Association recommends routine screening for type 2 diabetes for all people beginning at age 45, especially if they’re overweight. If the results are normal, the test should be repeated every three years.
Fortunately, those who have been harmed by a dangerous drug or medical device can seek compensation for their injury by filing a civil action in court. In fact, scores of women who developed diabetes after taking Lipitor have already done so. Women from Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia who are seeking damages from Pfizer have filed suits that have been consolidated into one big case, called an MDL.
MDL stands for multidistrict litigation. When lawsuits have been filed in multiple federal courts across the country, and the cases have common issues and facts, they can be consolidated into one action which is heard by one judge. That provides for judicial economy and similar outcomes for similar cases. The Lipitor MDL is proceeding in South Carolina’s federal court, with the cases filed in other states’ federal courts being incorporated into it.
The lawsuits allege Pfizer knew its cholesterol-lowering drug had been linked to type 2 diabetes since at least 1996 and yet failed to warn the public of this risk. They also say that the warning required by the FDA still doesn’t adequately communicate the seriousness of the risks associated with use of Lipitor because it’s written in language that doesn’t mean anything to the average user, a form of pharmaceutical “doublespeak.”
In addition to the dozens of lawsuits that have already been joined in the MDL, there are also nearly 200 “tag-along” cases that may be included. If you or a loved one took Lipitor and subsequently developed diabetes, your lawsuit also could become a part of the MDL currently being heard in South Carolina’s federal court.