Study: Lipitor lowers more than cholesterol
August 29th, 2011
12:12 PM ET

Study: Lipitor lowers more than cholesterol

Cholesterol-lowering medications like Lipitor seem to protect the body against more causes of death than just cardiovascular disease.

According to a retrospective study published Sunday in the European Heart Journal, the popular drug atorvastatin – sold by Pfizer under the name Lipitor – can also prevent death from infection and respiratory illness.

A clinical trial measuring the drug’s effectiveness ended in 2003 after having successfully shown to help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Since then, the group taking atorvastatin has continued to experience “legacy effects” from that study – a 14% lower mortality rate compared to the group taking a placebo for the study.

“The result is very unexpected,” said Peter Sever, the study’s main author. “The benefits of statins for preventing heart attacks and strokes are well-established, but after long-term follow-up the most significant effects seem to be on deaths from other causes. It’s quite remarkable that there is still this difference between the two groups, eight years after the trial finished.”

The lower mortality rate in the atorvastatin group is due largely to a 36% reduction in deaths specifically from infection and respiratory illness, according to the study based on 4,605 participants in the United Kingdom.

Sever receives money from one or more pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Pfizer wants FDA approval to make Lipitor an over-the-counter medication, which could generate new sales after the company loses U.S. patent protection on the drug in November.

Retrospective studies like this one have their limits.

“It doesn’t sell me that 'Wow, this is now going to prevent infections,' it just doesn’t,” says Dr. Vincent Bufalino, a cardiologist and national spokesman for the American Heart Association.

“I think this is going to need some thought now. It raises a question and what it probably needs now is a go-forward randomized trial to say: is this true?”

soundoff (146 Responses)
  1. apartisan

    I had a high cholesterol test (~190) in 2001 and was prescribed lovastatin, which progressively made my joints ache beyond my years. I complained to my doctor repeatedly, then refused to take any more. We tried a few other drugs, but all had side effects, until success with Lipitor about 7 years ago (10mg keeps my cholesterol below 150). I exercise a lot and love salads now, and still enjoy mexican food or pizza once in a while, thanks to Lipitor.

    August 30, 2011 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • HectorProtector

      Not to deny that the drug does seem to do what it's supposed to, but–how much did they pay you for that post?

      August 30, 2011 at 22:08 | Report abuse |
    • ME

      The information on studies is meaningless if you dont provide links to the actual studies. Hear-say are inadmissible in court-of-law for a reason.

      April 12, 2014 at 11:36 | Report abuse |
  2. DrugsR-Bad

    Works OK for Many – But there are those cases – I know first hand – where that "Rare but Seriosus - aaahhhh Very Serious Muscle Weakness" – IS a Real side effect. Only took appx. 18 days to "ROB" my strength – well 90% of it, with no recovery over next 6 months, marginal increase over next 2 years. Still at about 30-40% strength, and 10% endurance!
    Healthy male near 60. Carefully monitor effects of ALL medications that you take! Dont assume you overworked in the yard!

    August 30, 2011 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Bill

    This is nothing but an ad for Lipitor. Does anyone know if the study was funded by Pfizer?

    August 30, 2011 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DT

      It says clearly in the article that the author is funded by phizer and other drug companies. It doesn't mean the conclusions are automatically wrong, just that you should look at the details.

      August 30, 2011 at 22:09 | Report abuse |
  4. azereta

    Wow, what a marvel of a pill and safe too....I am so excited, I think that even through I don't need it I may as well get them, they sound so health like.

    August 30, 2011 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Maule5662h

    Such baloney! Go to SpaceDoc's website (spacedoc.com) to learn more about the serious harms from taking statin drugs! Get the book "Overdosed America," too. Get your science/evidence/results-based education from the many "Healthy Lifestyle" professionals - Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Hans Diehl, Dr. Dean Ornish ,Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Neal Barnard, RD Jeff Novick, RAVE's Mike Anderson, Dr. Michael Klaper. They all point you to the optimal nutrition for humans - a plant-based, whole-foods diet of vegetables and some fruit, no processed oils, eliminate/minimize all animal products!

    August 31, 2011 at 00:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Florence13

    If it is sold over the counter, how much will it cost?? Many will not be able to afford it.

    August 31, 2011 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sam

    Been on Lipitor for 10 years with no side effects, except I grew an inch and have run into others with similar experiences. My doctor said it was nothing to worry about, and at the higher height, with a similar weight, I am less overweight.

    August 31, 2011 at 06:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Tricia

    I was put on Lipitor, and immediately started experiencing difficulty going up stairs (pain in my joints), and also thinking became more difficult. I told my doctor, who wrote it off to possible menopause. After the next cholesterol test, when my overall cholesterol was way down, he felt it wasn't working sufficiently well at that dosage and upped me to the next level. The symptoms immediately worsened dramatically (couldn't go up stairs without putting on foot on a stair, then lifting up the next one, and so on). I immediately took myself off of it and told him there was no point in living to 80 if I felt like I was 80 at 50. High cholesterol runs in my family, as does living to at least 80 nonetheless.

    August 31, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paddy

      Great question. In order to anwesr your question accurately, we would need to know which carrier you are with. According to Express Scripts, there is not much of a cost difference between the generic version of Lipitor and the brand name Lipitor. Express Scripts calls this an in-house generic . If this was the case in your situation, you should have been charged only your generic co-pay amount. We would suggest checking to make sure you were charged your generic co-pay amount and if not, you may want to inquire further. Thank you for question.

      October 11, 2012 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
  9. Joe

    if lipitor controls production of cholesterol have any studies been done on people taking Lipitor and Alzheimer's .The heart may not need cholesterol but the brain is comprised of it.

    September 2, 2011 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Lynn and Ram, I was also experiencing real bad muscle and joint pain and when I went for blood work with my heart doctor they sent the report to my regular MD and my sugar levels were high but the other blood number was just below of "Diabetes" . MD ask me if I wanted to start on pills or do diet. I took diet and started my breads,potatoes,etc. and my pain went away.

    September 3, 2011 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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