Cholesterol Drug Change May Be Risky
Study by Maker of Statin Drug Lipitor Raises Questions About Switching to Generic Versions
Sept. 5, 2007 -- Patients who switch from the statin drug Lipitor to a generic version of another statin may be more likely to suffer strokes, heart attacks, and death, a new study from Lipitor manufacturer Pfizer shows.
Researchers for the drug maker reported a 30% increase in risk for major cardiac events or deaths from all causes among patients who switched from Lipitor to simvastatin, the generic version of Merck & Co's cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor.
The generic statin was approved for sale in the U.S. in June 2006. It has been available in the U.K. since 2003.
Pfizer researchers compared outcomes among patients taking Lipitor who were and were not switched to simvastatin.
They say the findings highlight the potential for increased risk when patients are switched from one statin to another.
But all agree that they don't prove Lipitor is better or safer than a different cheaper, generic statin.
"We can't say from this study that switching is bad or that one statin is better than another. You would need a randomized, clinical trial to say that," cardiologist Berkeley Phillips, MD, of Pfizer tells WebMD.
"But there has been a lot of switching in the U.K. and across Europe, and this does raise concerns about policies that advocate widespread switching for purely economic reasons with little thought to a patient's individual risk," he says.