Two men who believe they suffered lasting damage from the popular anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor are suing Pfizer Inc., claiming the pharmaceutical company didn’t issue adequate warnings about potential side effects.
Charles M. Wilson, a former insurance executive from Atlanta, and Michael Mazzariello, an attorney from New York City, said in separate lawsuits that they began experiencing debilitating pain, weakness and memory problems after taking the drug.
“It ruined my life,” said Mazzariello, 47. He said that within weeks of going on the medication, he couldn’t walk without a cane, tend his garden or lift his 1-year-old child.
Mazzariello said the symptoms subsided once he stopped taking the medication, but he still suffers from pain, fatigue and a tingling sensation in his hands and feet. Wilson, 67, of Atlanta, said he suffered from neuropathy, a nervous system disease that disrupts muscle control.
Pfizer called the two suits “baseless.”
Company spokesman Bryant Haskins said all potential side effects of the drug are included on its labeling and often mentioned in advertising.
One of those warnings, prominently posted on a company Web site about the drug, cautions patients to “tell your doctor if you feel any new muscle pain or weakness. This could be a sign of rare but serious muscle side effects.”
Haskins said the number of Lipitor users experiencing those symptoms is “very, very small ... well under 1 percent.” They are far outnumbered by the millions of people who have taken it safely, he said.
“This is a drug that has been on the market for 10 years. It is one of the most studied cholesterol lowering medications in the world,” Haskins said.
Mark Krum, the lawyer who filed the lawsuits, acknowledged that the medication may be safe for most people, but he said that didn’t absolve the company of its duty to market it responsibly.
Lipitor, a type of statin, is the top-selling medication in the world and brings in more than $12 billion a year for Pfizer.
Dr. Robert Eckel, president of the American Heart Association, said that while patients do occasionally report muscle pain after taking statins, serious problems are very rare and usually dissipate once someone stops taking the drug.
“The benefit is really substantially outweighing the risk,” he said. Statins are considered among the best drugs for lowering cholesterol.
The lawsuits were filed Wednesday in Manhattan’s State Supreme Court.