Lipitor (atorvastatin) is a cholesterol-lowering medication that has been linked to memory loss, confusion, forgetfulness, amnesia, and other debilitating cognitive problems for more than a decade. However, it was not until February 2012 that Pfizer warned about the risk of memory loss — and only after the FDA required adequate warnings.
Lipitor and Memory Loss
Lipitor (generic: atorvastatin) is a type of medication called a statin that is used to reduce levels of low-density lipoproten (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. By reducing cholesterol, Lipitor also reduces the risk of heart attacks and stroke in patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease.
Cholesterol also plays a vital role in the brain. In fact, 25% of the total amount of cholesterol is located in the brain. This waxy substance forms the insulation around neurons, which speeds up electrical synapses. Cholesterol is vital for memory, learning, quick-thinking, and more.
Therefore, it comes as little surprise that cholesterol-inhibiting drugs like Lipitor have been associated with memory loss and other serious cognitive problems. Concern about the risk has been growing for more than a decade. For example, this study published in Pharmacotherapy in 2003 reviewed 60 case reports of memory loss in patients taking statins. The most common symptom was short-term memory loss, but other patients also reported complete and partial amnesia.
FDA Safety Warning for Lipitor and Memory Loss
In response to a growing number of adverse event reports involving Lipitor and memory loss, in February 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a Drug Safety Communication and warned about the following potential risks:
- Memory loss
- Memory impairment
- Mental “fuzziness”
- Loss of focus or ability to concentrate
- Amnesia (partial and complete)
The FDA found that the symptoms were not serious and patients who stopped taking Lipitor got better within a few weeks. Memory loss occurred in as little as one day, or up to several years.
Lipitor Memory Loss Lawsuits
Pfizer is currently facing a growing number of Lipitor memory loss lawsuits and class action lawsuits. Lawsuits allege that Pfizer did not adequately warn about the potential risk of side effects until after many people were injured. In fact, the warning label on Lipitor was only updated after more than a decade of adverse event reports, a few months after the patent on Lipitor expired. Many individuals suffered with mental dysfunction for quite some time before realizing that Lipitor could be causing their memory loss.