New Warnings on Cholesterol-Lowering Statins

FDA: Memory Loss, Confusion, Diabetes Are Possible Statin Side Effects

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on February 28, 2012
From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 28, 2012 -- Memory loss, confusion, high blood sugar, and type 2 diabetes are possible side effects of the popular cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, the FDA warns.

Brand name and generic versions of statin drugs must carry these warnings on their labels, the FDA today announced.

The products include: Lipitor (atorvastatin), Lescol (fluvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Altoprev (lovastatin extended-release), Livalo (pitavastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin), and Zocor (simvastatin). Combination products include: Advicor (lovastatin/niacin extended-release), Simcor (simvastatin/niacin extended-release), and Vytorin (simvastatin/ezetimibe).

"We want health care professionals and patients to have the most current information on the risks of statins, but also to assure them that these medications continue to provide an important health benefit of lowering cholesterol," Mary Parks, MD, director of the FDA's Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products, said in a news release.

The new labels will warn patients about:

  • Memory loss and mental confusion. Some people taking statin drugs have experienced these brain-related effects. These effects usually have not been serious and went away when patients stopped using the drugs.
  • Risk of high blood sugar.
  • Risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

There will also be a change in the current recommendation that patients on statins get routine liver tests. Those tests now will be needed only before starting statin treatment and then only as needed.

One statin drug, Mevacor, has been singled out for a special new warning. All statin drugs carry a small but serious risk of muscle injury. But this risk is particularly high for patients taking Mevacor and certain other drugs, including the protease inhibitor class of HIV drugs and some antibiotic and antifungal medications.