Lipitor, an anti-cholesterol drug manufactured by Pfizer, has been under fire for allegations that it increases the risk of women developing diabetes. The drug, which belongs to the class of cholesterol-lowering medications called statins, has been linked by numerous researchers to higher rates of diabetes.
In 2010, an epidemiological analysis of 13 statin trials recognized that statins significantly increase the risk for diabetes. The authors analyzed data from 13 studies performed between 1994 and 2009, involving more than 91,000 subjects. Out of 4,278 study subjects who developed diabetes, 2,226 had been given statins (compared to 2,052 who had not). According to those numbers, users of statins are at a 9% greater risk of developing diabetes versus persons who do not use statins – a statistically significant number.
Recently, a different group of epidemiologists sought to determine whether a person’s gender had any effect on their chances of developing diabetes from exposure to statins. They analyzed the 13 aforementioned studies as well as data collected by the Women’s Health Initiative. Based on the overall data there does appear to be a statistically significant difference between female and male statin users and their rates of developing diabetes.
Women tend to have lower risks of cardiovascular events compared to men, but they may be prescribed statins based solely on their lipid levels without taking their cardiovascular risks into account. This could lead to women at low risk unnecessarily being prescribed statins, in which case the risk of diabetes could outweigh any cardiovascular benefits. The authors recommended appropriate monitoring for all patients on statins, but especially for women.
Sattar N, Preiss D,Murray HM, et al. Statins and risk of incident diabetes: a collaborative meta-analysis of randomised statin trials. Lancet 2010;375:735–742.
Goodarzi, M., et al. Relationship of sex to diabetes risk in statin trials. Diabetes Care 2013;36:e100-101.