Risk Factors vs. Benefits of Lipitor Continue


The Lipitor website says this drug blocks formation of an enzyme the liver uses to produce cholesterol. With less cholesterol produced, the liver compensates for the shortage by removing what it requires from cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream and so lowering the cholesterol blood level. The website claims as a benefit that Lipitor lowers cholesterol blood levels by 39 to 69 percent depending on dosage.

Not a toxin, cholesterol is in fact vital for normal body function, but excessive blood levels exemplify the common remark that too much of anything is bad. If there is too much cholesterol for cells to absorb, the excess remains in the bloodstream as lipid debris that can lodge on arterial walls and cause atherosclerosis, which reduces blood flow to vital organs.

Because by design it affects the normal function of the liver, the great organ of metabolism, the manufacturer has warned since the drug entered the market after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 1996 that Lipitor is not for patients with known liver problems and that it may cause liver problems as side effects. There were also less prominent warnings of possible side effects on kidneys. There was no warning, however, of type 2 diabetes until February 2012, when the FDA ordered warning of a risk of altered blood sugar levels.

Now there are five civil actions in three federal district courts alleging that Lipitor causes type 2 diabetes and that Pfizer fails to give consumers fair warning of this problem, according to an August 2013 order of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Case MDL 2459, In re Lipitor (Atorvastatin Calcium) Marketing, Sales Practices, and Product Liability Litigation. The order says, "The Panel has been informed of 23 additional related federal actions."

For Lipitor there are liver problems, kidney damage, and diabetes as risk factors confirmed by the manufacturer’s warnings and lowered cholesterol blood levels presented by the manufacturer’s marketing as a speculative benefit. Such marketing may lull consumers into a false confidence that Lipitor may permit them to continue unhealthy, overindulgent lifestyles rather than make changes in their diets and physical activities to allow their livers to produce proper amounts of cholesterol without risky pharmaceutical intervention.


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