Diabetes, memory loss warnings on statin, and other labels

United States health regulators are adding warnings to the labels of widely used cholesterol lowering drugs, such as Lipitor, to say they may raise levels of blood sugar and could cause memory loss.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced the changes to the safety information on the labels of statins such as Pfizer Inc’s Lipitor, AstraZeneca’s Crestor and Merck & Co’s Zocor that are taken by tens of millions of people.

Statins have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease, and the FDA said the new information should not scare people into stopping taking the drugs.

“The value of statins in preventing heart disease has been clearly established,” Amy Egan, deputy director for safety in FDA’s Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products, said in a statement. “Their benefit is indisputable, but they need to be taken with care and knowledge of their side effects.”

Lipitor, which became available late last year in generic form as atorvastatin, is the world’s all-time biggest selling prescription medicine with cumulative sales in excess of $130 billion. As a class, statins have helped enrich the world’s largest drugmakers, but most of the major brands are now prescribed as far cheaper generic medicines.

Last year, more than 20 million Americans were taking some form of statin, according to IMS Health.

“These are nuances, tiny little tweaks to the label, and the bigger picture doesn’t change,” said Steven Nissen, chief of cardiology at Cleveland Clinic. “There are few drugs that have saved as many lives as statins and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Read More