Recently, the country’s leading cardiovascular associations recommended new guideline for statins, a class of cholesterol lowering drugs that includes Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor. Millions of Americans take statins, but under the new guidelines recommended by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, the number of adults considered to benefit from these drugs would double from 15.5% to 31% of the adult population.
In the past, the guidelines focused on a person’s level of “bad cholesterol,” or LDL. Now, the guidelines focus on whether a person has risk factors such as heart disease, diabetes, high LDL, or a higher risk of heart attack. The new guidelines recommend statins for anyone with any one of these risk factors. The new guidelines also recommend, for the first time, taking statins for the prevention of stroke. These changes are likely to raise the number of Americans taking statins to about 72 million people, which may mean billions of dollars in new revenue for pharmaceutical companies. See, Not on cholesterol meds? New guidelines may change that and New heart guidelines could put more Americans on statins.
The guidelines change is not without controversy. One criticism is that the new guidelines fail to take into account the potential side effects of statin therapy, which include an increased risk of diabetes (especially for women), muscle pain and weakness, decreased cognitive function, cataracts, and sexual dysfunction. In addition, the clinical evidence for the notion that reducing LDL levels decreases the risk of heart disease, particularly for women, has been questioned. See, Don’t Give More Patients Statins.
Before any new prescription, it makes sense to first ask the prescribing doctor about the drug’s known side effects, as well as whether there may be available alternative therapies. When interviewed recently on The Diane Rhem Show, aired on Jacksonville NPR affiliate, WJCT 89.9FM, an author took issue with the idea that pharmaceutical giants will profit greatly from these changes, because, he said, the vast majority of statin prescriptions are filled with generics. However, that raises other serious issues, for as we have reported in previous articles, because of a 2012 ruling from the United States Supreme Court, if a prescription is filled with a generic rather than brand name drug, legal remedies for personal injury and wrongful death may have been eliminated if the new drug causes harm. Dangerous Generic Drugs: A Potential Solution. We can also now report that the FDA has taken action to address this injustice; generic drug manufacturers will now be expected to warn of newly discovered risks from their products. A separate article about this development is being posted on this Terrell • Hogan Jacksonville personal injury law firm website.
Presently, Terrell • Hogan attorneys, Wayne Hogan and Chris Shakib, are investigating cases in which women taking the statin, Lipitor, have developed diabetes.