Cholesterol is naturally produced by the body in order to help transport proteins through the blood stream.  To an extent a person can control his or her cholesterol levels by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.  However, there are times when the liver will produce too much cholesterol, and a person must rely on a drug, such as Lipitor, to block its production.  Lipitor is highly successful at blocking cholesterol production.

Lipitor has been on the market, helping to reduce cholesterol levels in users, for nearly 20 years.  However, after it was approved some of the dangerous side effects started showing up.  The attorneys at Arentz Law Group P.C. believe that Pfizer knew about these side effects, however, they chose not to warn patients for fear it would cut into their profits.  If you, or a loved one, have suffered from kidney damage, liver damage, muscle damage, or memory loss while or after taking Lipitor, you may be entitled to compensation.  Contact a lawyer from Arentz Law by filling out the contact form on this page, or by calling 1-800-305-6000 and schedule your free initial consultation.

History of Lipitor

In 1985 a scientist by the name of Bruce Roth made a breakthrough in the statin market.  Although not the first of its kind, atorvastatin was certainly the most effective.  However, it would be another 11 years before the drug, with the common name of Lipitor, would hit the market.

The drug was an immediate success.  It was amazing at blocking the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol.  As such, millions of people have subscribed to it and utilized it to help keep them at a reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.  The drug was so successful that in its first 10 years it brought in over $73 billion.  In fact, through its history, the drug is the all-time best selling prescription drug with sales of over $140 billion.

Pfizer saw the patent for Lipitor expire at the end of 2011.  At this point, the drug atorvastatin could be manufactured and produced generically, greatly reducing the profits that Pfizer would see from it.  However, that would not stop the drug manufacturer from pulling massive profits.  At its peak Lipitor was bringing in over $12 billion annually, now that a generic is available, the drug still manages over $2 billion in annual sales.

Pfizer is currently the second largest drug company in the world, with 2012 sales topping $58 billion.  But those sales come at a price to those who purchase their drugs.

How Lipitor Works

Lipitor is an artificial chemical that works with the body to block the production of low density lipoprotein, or LDL.  This form of cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol.  Too much can lead to heart disease, stroke, and various other cardiovascular problems.

Cholesterol enters the body in two ways.  One is through diet, which can be controlled and a healthy lifestyle can help to reduce one’s LDL levels.  Another method is via production in the liver.  This production can sometimes get out of control, and too much cholesterol is produced.  By taking a Lipitor regimen an individual can help to control the amount of cholesterol that is produced in the liver, thus helping to reduce their risk of various heart related problems.

Possible Lipitor Side Effects

All drugs have side effects.  Sometimes these side effects are as benign as lightheadedness immediately after intake; others are severe enough to lead to death.  Lipitor has a whole array of side effects.  Some of the milder include:

  • Nausea
  • Joint Pain
  • Muscle Pain
  • Fatigue

If that were the extent, then Lipitor would be called a side effect free drug.  However, the list of mild side effects continues on.  And the list of serious side effects is rather extent as well, including:

Kidney Damage

Taking a statin drug, such as Lipitor, can cause some muscle pain.  This soreness is actually fairly common, and generally does not persist.  However, this myopathy (muscle weakness and pain) can persist, causing the patient undue stress and anguish.  If left untreated, and if the dose of Lipitor is high enough, the myopathy can progress into rhabdomyolysis (a severe myopathy condition where the muscle tissue begins to break down).

Rhabdomyolysis progresses and breaks the muscles down into myoglobin.  Myoglobin is released into the bloodstream and must be filtered out by the kidneys.  The kidneys already have a very important job; any little impurity and toxin in the blood filters through the kidneys and allows the body to enjoy blood free of impurities.  Myoglobin is very hard on the kidneys, causing them to work harder.   If left untreated, they can begin to be damaged.  The high dose of Lipitor causes the muscles to deteriorate, and the kidneys to stop functioning

Liver Damage

Cholesterol makes its way into the blood stream via two different methods.  Some comes through the foods a person eats, but the bulk of the cholesterol is produced in the liver.  Cholesterol helps the body to transport proteins through the blood stream; this is precisely why HDL cholesterol is good to have.  However, some people’s bodies produce too much of the LDL cholesterol, and they need a drug that helps block the liver from producing that overabundance.

What can happen, however, is that when the body is told not to produce the cholesterol, it ends up producing too many enzymes in the liver.  While some people may not notice a change, and their bodies will accommodate the extra enzymes, other people will not.  These extra enzymes will build up, and if left untreated may cause permanent liver damage.

The liver damage is just one of many worries that the Lipitor lawyers at Arentz Law see.  Other severe side effects include: kidney damage, severe muscle damage (rhabdomyolysis), memory loss, diabetes, and several others.  The risk is severe enough that patients must carefully weigh their options before taking the drug.


The FDA issued an order in 2012 for the makers of Lipitor and similar statins to update warning labels to reflect a higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Multiple respected studies have drawn attention to the risk of developing type-2 diabetes as a side effect of Lipitor:

  • In 2012, a study in Atherosclerosis found that people who use Lipitor face a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes (48% higher) for women between the ages of 50 and 79 who use a statin like Lipitor compared to women who do not use these medications
  • In 2011, a study published in the Lancet found that patients who take statins, including Lipitor, face a 9% higher risk of developing diabetes
  • The JACC published a study in 2010 where researchers concluded that, when compared to a control group, patients who take an 80 mg dose of Lipitor daily have a 37% higher risk of developing diabetes

Individuals who have type-2 diabetes cannot properly metabolize sugar because their body either produces insufficient insulin (which regulates the way the body processes sugar) or because their body is resistant to the effects of insulin. Type-2 diabetes must be closely controlled or it can cause serious health consequences or even death. If you use Lipitor, you need to be aware of potential symptoms of diabetes, which may include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow healing
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Areas of darkened skin
  • Fatigue
Memory Loss
While Lipitor does a great job at helping to lower a person’s overall “bad” cholesterol levels (while simultaneously helping bring up the “good” cholesterol levels) it also comes with a host of serious side effects.  Those effects include: kidney damage, muscle damage, liver damage, diabetes, and memory loss.In July 2003, about 7 years after Lipitor first found FDA approval, the results of a study were published that showed there was a correlation between taking the drug atorvastatin (the generic drug name for Lipitor) and short-term memory loss.  A few months later, in December 2003, another study came to a similar conclusion.  2 years later, in 2005, a third study showed the correlation, and in 2006 yet another study showed that memory loss was a very real side effect of taking Lipitor.While the actual method of how Lipitor causes patients to suffer from a loss of higher cognitive functions is still unknown, the fact remains that a certain percentage do indeed have this negative side effect.  A side effect that the Lipitor lawyers at Arentz Law feel was never fully disclosed to the patients who take the drug.Much of the time memory begins to return after the patient discontinues the use of the statin drug.  However, this return of memory is based on several different factors.  Patients who have been on the drug for a longer period of time, or taking a higher dosage, may find it takes even longer for their memory to return than those who did not use the drug quite as long or took fewer milligrams.

What is Rhabdomyolysis?

There are many different problems that can occur with the muscles.  When talking in general about muscle weakness, or muscle pains, one refers to myopathy (from the Greek root “myo” meaning muscle and “pathy” meaning suffering).  However, Rhabdomyolysis is more than just muscle aches and pains.

This extreme myopathy sees the muscle tissues become so irritated and inflamed, that it begins to break down.  It is not just muscle damage, but rather a complete deterioration of the muscle tissue itself.

During the breakdown of the muscle tissue, myoglobin is released into circulation in the blood.  It will then need filtered by the kidneys, which have trouble keeping up.  Since so many impurities are being filtered from the blood, patients suffering from rhabdomyolysis often see their urine turn a dark color, often as dark as cola.

How Does Lipitor Lead to Rhabdomyolysis?

Taking any statin drug, such as atorvastatin (the generic drug used to manufacture Lipitor) puts the patient at risk of many different side effects.  One of those side effects is myopathy.  Unfortunately the link between statin drugs and myopathy is not understood very well.  However, what is known is that while taking Lipitor, patients experience a higher risk of developing myopathy.

While some muscle weakness or soreness is to be expected with these drugs, especially while the body is becoming used to the new chemicals being introduced into the body, prolonged myopathy is not to be expected.  This extended pain in the muscles is often the sign that the muscle tissue is getting damaged by the drug.  If the patient begins to notice a change in the color of their urine, they should seek medical help immediately, as the body is starting to process the breaking down of muscle tissues.

If caught right away, the damage done by rhabdomyolysis can be reversed.  The kidneys will heal from their overload, and the muscle will begin to grow back (depending on the age and health of the patient).  However, if the patient does not notice that their body is undergoing changes, the damage can spread and become quite severe.  The result, although not common, could be that the patient dies from this rare disease.

It is believed that Pfizer knew about these severe side effects long before the drug found its way onto the market.  However, they did not immediately warn those taking Lipitor that this could happen to them.

FDA Warnings

Lipitor had plenty of time to be tested.  From discovery until approval 11 years lapsed.  While there were some warnings that came with the drug, Pfizer chose to pass over some of the dangerous side effects.  They would rather make billions of dollars than properly warn their customers that the drug that would help ward off heart disease could end up killing them.

It was not until Lipitor had been on the market for 16 years did the FDA revise their warnings regarding this dangerous drug.  Early in 2012, they FDA finally addressed the concerns that Lipitor may cause some serious problems.  Specifically it was noted that jaundice could be a problem, as well as memory loss, confusion, elevated blood sugar (which could lead to diabetes), and others.  This is despite the fact that these problems had been known for nearly a decade.  Several different studies addressed these concerns.

Lipitor Sales Data

Lipitor is the best selling drug of all time.  While there are some drugs that come close to the amount of sales when controlling for certain factors (such as first 10 years on the market), none come close to the all-time sales that this one drug has seen.

Lipitor hit the market in 1996.  It was not the first drug in its class (statins), but it was the most effective.  Because it was so good at reducing cholesterol levels, the drug saw immediate success.  By 2006, the drug had brought in over $73 billion for the manufacturer Pfizer.  And that was just the tip of the sales.

From 2006 until 2011 Lipitor saw those sales continue to boom.  This 5 year stretch reaped sales topping over $62 billion, or approximately $12 billion annually.  This annual amount surpasses the lifetime sales data of most drugs.  However, at the end of 2011 the patent on the drug ran out.  And in the first few months of 2012 a generic version of atorvastatin became available.  While sales of Lipitor were cut dramatically (from $12 billion annually to about $2 billion), the drug is still a huge money maker for Pfizer.

Pfizer is currently the second largest pharmaceutical company in the world.  Their annual sales were close to $60 billion in 2012 (they slipped to just over $50 billion in 2013).  With some very popular drugs on the market, such as Lipitor, Viagra, Lyrica and more, Pfizer continues to be an extremely profitable company.

Lipitor Lawsuit Claims

Multiple individuals who have been harmed by Lipitor side effects have filed personal injury lawsuits in pursuit of compensation for medical bills and other damages. Common claims upon which Lipitor lawsuits have been based include:

  • Pfizer knew or should have known of the dangers of Lipitor side effects including type-2 diabetes, but continued to market the drug based on claims of its safety
  • Pfizer should have conducted thorough research into potential risks associated with Lipitor and should have fully informed the medical community and the public of these risks
  • Pfizer did not conduct adequate post-market research to learn more about Lipitor side effects after patients reported problems
  • If patients had been properly warned about Lipitor side effects, they may have chosen not to use the medication or they may have more closely monitored their health for signs of known Lipitor side effects

Contact a Lipitor Attorney

In a Lipitor dangerous drug lawsuit, victims of Lipitor side effects can recover just compensation for their physical, emotional, and financial damages.  If you or someone you love has suffered as a result of taking Lipitor, our attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources you need to build a strong case.  Contact us today to schedule a free Lipitor lawsuit consultation with a nationally respected attorney.

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