- What is Lipitor (atorvastatin)? How does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What are the uses for Lipitor (atorvastatin)?
- What are the side effects of Lipitor (atorvastatin)?
- What is the dosage for Lipitor (atorvastatin)? How should it be taken?
- Which drugs or supplements interact with Lipitor (atorvastatin)?
- Is Lipitor (atorvastatin) safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
- What else should I know about Lipitor (atorvastatin)?
What is Lipitor (atorvastatin)? How does it work (mechanism of action)?
Lipitor (atorvastatin) is type of statin that lowers the level of cholesterol in the blood. All statins, including atorvastatin, prevent the production of cholesterol in the liver by blocking HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme that makes cholesterol. Statins reduce total cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol in blood. LDL cholesterol is believed to be the "bad" cholesterol that is primarily responsible for the development of coronary artery disease. Reducing LDL cholesterol levels retards progression and may even reverse coronary artery disease. Atorvastatin also raises the concentrations of HDL ("good") cholesterol that protects against coronary artery disease and reduces the concentration of triglycerides in the blood. (High blood concentrations of triglycerides also have been associated with coronary artery disease.)
Examples of other statins include:
- lovastatin (Mevacor - brand name discontinued),
- simvastatin, (Zocor),
- fluvastatin (Lescol, Lescol XL),
- pravastatin (Livalo, Zypitamg), and
- rosuvastatin (Crestor)
The FDA approved atorvastatin in December 1996.
What are the uses for Lipitor (atorvastatin)?
- Lipitor is used for the treatment of elevated total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, and to elevate HDL cholesterol. The effectiveness of Lipitor in lowering cholesterol is dose-related, meaning that higher doses reduce cholesterol more.
- In individuals with coronary artery disease Lipitor prevents:
- Lipitor reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, angina, and revascularization procedures in adults without evidence of coronary heart disease, but with multiple risk factors for coronary artery disease, for example:
- Family history of coronary heart disease
- Lipitor also prevents heart attacks and strokes in patients with type 2 diabetes without evidence of heart disease, but with multiple risk factors for coronary artery disease.
What are the side effects of Lipitor (atorvastatin)?
Lipitor is generally well tolerated. Minor side effects include:
Other commonly reported side effects include:
Lipitor may cause liver and muscle damage. Serious liver damage caused by statins is rare. Liver tests should be performed at the beginning of treatment then as needed thereafter.
Inflammation of the muscles caused by statins can lead to serious breakdown of muscle cells called rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis causes the release of muscle protein (myoglobin) into the blood, and myoglobin can cause kidney failure and even death. When used alone, statins cause rhabdomyolysis in less than one percent of patients. To prevent the development of serious rhabdomyolysis, patients taking atorvastatin should contact their health-care professional immediately if they develop unexplained muscle pain, weakness, or muscle tenderness.
Statins have been associated with increases in HbA1c and fasting serum glucose levels as seen in diabetes.
Post-marketing reports for atorvastatin of adverse events include:
Symptoms may start one day to years after starting treatment and resolve within a median of three weeks after stopping the statin.
What is the dosage for Lipitor (atorvastatin)? How should it be taken?
- Lipitor is prescribed once daily.
- The usual starting dose for adults is 10-20 mg per day, and the maximum dose is 80 mg per day. Adults who need more than a 45% reduction in LDL cholesterol may be started at 40 mg daily.
- Pediatric patients should receive 10 mg once daily up to a maximum dose of 20 mg daily.
- Lipitor may be taken with or without food and at any time of day.
Which drugs or supplements interact with Lipitor (atorvastatin)?
Decreased elimination of Lipitor could increase levels of Lipitor in the body and increase the risk of muscle toxicity from Lipitor. Therefore, Lipitor should not be combined with drugs that decrease its elimination. Examples of such drugs includes:
- erythromycin (E-Mycin),
- ketoconazole (Nizoral),
- itraconazole (Sporanox),
- clarithromycin (Biaxin),
- telithromycin (Ketek),
- cyclosporine (Sandimmune),
- nefazodone (Serzone), and
- HIV protease inhibitors such as indinavir (Crixivan) and ritonavir (Norvir).
Large quantities of grape fruit juice (>1.2 liters daily) also will increase blood levels of Lipitor and should not be taken.
The following drugs also may increase the risk of muscle toxicity when combined with Lipitor.
- amiodarone (Cordarone)
- verapamil (Calan Verelan, Isoptin)
- cyclosporine (Sandimmune)
- niacin (Niacor, Niaspan, Slo-Niacin)
- gemfibrozil (Lopid)
- fenofibrate (Tricor)
Lipitor increases the effect of warfarin (Coumadin) and the concentration in blood of digoxin (Lanoxin). Patients taking Lipitor and warfarin or digoxin should be monitored carefully. Cholestyramine (Questran) decreases the absorption of Lipitor. Lipitor should be given at least two hours before and at least four hours after cholestyramine.
Rifampin increases breakdown of Lipitor. To reduce the likelihood of this interaction both drugs should be given at the same time. Lipitor should not be given after rifampin.
Is Lipitor (atorvastatin) safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
- Lipitor should not be taken during pregnancy because the developing fetus requires cholesterol for development, and Lipitor reduces the production of cholesterol. Lipitor should only be administered to women of childbearing age if they are not likely to become pregnant.
- It is not known if Lipitor is secreted in breast milk. Because of the potential risk of adverse events, breastfeeding mothers should not use Lipitor.
What else should I know about Lipitor (atorvastatin)?
What preparations of Lipitor (atorvastatin) are available?
- Tablets of 10, 20, 40, and 80 mg
How should atorvastatin be stored?
- Tablets should be stored at room temperature, 20 C to 25 C (68 F to 77 F).
Atorvastatin is available in generic form. You need a prescription for atorvastatin from your doctor.
Lipitor (atorvastatin) is a drug in the statin drug classed prescribed to patients to lower blood cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, elevate HDL cholesterol, to prevent angina, stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, revascularization procedures in heart disease, and prevent heart attacks, and strokes in patients with type 2 diabetes. Side effects of Lipitor include headache, urinary tract infections (UTIs), joint pain, common cold, intestinal gas (flatulence), diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn.
Drug interactions, dosing, and pregnancy and breastfeeding safety should be reviewed prior to taking any medication.
Multimedia: Slideshows, Images & Quizzes
Stroke Causes, Symptoms, and Recovery
What is a stroke? Learn about stroke symptoms like sudden numbness or weakness, confusion, vision problems, or problems with...
Heart Disease: Causes of a Heart Attack
Learn about heart disease and heart attack symptoms and signs of a heart attack in men and women. Read about heart disease...
Cholesterol Levels: What the Numbers Mean
Do you know the different cholesterol levels and what they mean? Learn the alphabet soup of cholesterol testing: LDL, HDL, good,...
Diabetes Diet: Healthy Meal Plans for Diabetes-Friendly Eating
Discover the best and worst meals for diabetes-savvy dining. See how to avoid carbs and control your blood sugar with healthier...
Stroke Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
Take the Stroke Quiz to learn about stroke risks, causes, treatment, and most importantly, prevention....
Sugar Quiz: Facts on Diet & Sugar
Sugar lurks in surprising places. Take the Sugar Quiz to learn of the many ways sugar sneaks into your diet and see what you know...
High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia) Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
High cholesterol can be a dangerous condition. Take the Cholesterol Quiz to understand what high cholesterol means in terms of...
Salt Quiz: Test Your Diet IQ
Do you love salt? Take the online Salt Quiz to get the facts about dietary salts and sodium in fruits, vegetables, processed...
Diet and Nutrition Quiz: Plans & Facts
Even if you think you're getting enough fruits and vegetables per day, how can you be sure? Take the Diet & Nutrition Quiz to...
Diabetes Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
Take the Diabetes Quiz and learn the causes, signs, symptoms, and types of this growing epidemic. What does diabetes have to do...
Heart Disease Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
Take our Heart Disease Quiz to get answers and facts about high cholesterol, atherosclerosis prevention, and the causes,...
Heart Disease: Symptoms, Signs, and Causes
What is heart disease (coronary artery disease)? Learn about the causes of heart disease. Symptoms of heart disease include chest...
Picture of Heart Detail
The heart is composed of specialized cardiac muscle, and it is four-chambered, with a right atrium and ventricle, and an...
Picture of Cholesterol
Cholesterol carried in particles of low density (LDL cholesterol) is referred to as the "bad" cholesterol because elevated levels...
Picture of Heart
The muscle that pumps blood received from veins into arteries throughout the body. See a picture of the Heart and learn more...
Am I Having a Heart Attack? Symptoms of Heart Disease
Heart attacks symptoms vary greatly for men and women, from anxiety and fatigue to nausea and sweating. Learn the warning signs...
Cholesterol Drugs: What to Expect With Heart Medication
When diet and exercise aren't enough, should you turn to drugs? Learn cholesterol basics, drug classes, and available drugs along...
Lower Your Cholesterol, Save Your Heart
Need to lower your cholesterol levels? Use these smart diet tips to quickly and easily lower your blood cholesterol levels....
Cholesterol: High Triglyceride Foods to Avoid
High triglycerides increase the risk of heart disease. Lower triglyceride levels and reduce cholesterol by eating foods that...
The Benefits of Omega 3 Foods on Heart Health
What are the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids? Learn how Omega 3 rich foods like fish oil, salmon, walnuts, & more can boost brain...
High-Fiber Super Foods: Whole Grains, Fruits, & More
Learn about high-fiber foods. From fresh fruits to whole grains, these fiber-rich foods can lower cholesterol, prevent...
Heart-Healthy Diet: 25 Foods to Protect Your Cardiovascular System
See 25 foods loaded with heart-healthy nutrients that help protect your cardiovascular system. Plus, find easy meal/recipes and...
12 Reasons to Love the Mediterranean Diet in Pictures
The Mediterranean diet is a delicious way to eat healthy. We show you how to get the most from this diet with foods like olive...
Diabetes Management Tips and Preventing Complications
Learn 10 simple ways to better manage your diabetes. See tips for controlling blood sugar, diet and exercise and other helpful...
Diet for Stress Management: Carbs, Nuts, and Other Stress-Relief Foods
While there are many ways to cope with stress, one strategy is to eat stress-fighting foods. Find out which foods to eat as part...
Vegetarian Diet: Tasty, Basic Choices in Pictures
Thinking about becoming a vegetarian? Compared to the general population, the typical vegetarian has a lower body mass index...
Healthy Seeds: 11 Edible Super Seeds for Better Nutrition
Are pumpkin seeds good for your health? What's the nutritional value of chia seeds? Find out how to easily incorporate more...
Portion Control Tips: Lose Weight and Stick to Your Diet
Portion control can help with weight loss and help you stick to a healthy diet. But how much is too much? This photo guide will...
Tips to Eat Healthy When You Dine Out in Pictures
Recognize the dangers of eating out and stay on your healthy diet at restaurants. Learn about healthy eating at restaurants,...
Food Swaps for Meals and Snacks for Heart Health in Pictures
Explore 10 food swaps for heart-wise dining. Learn what food to buy and how to cook in order to make a big difference for your...
Related Disease Conditions
Stroke (Signs, Symptoms, Warning Signs)
A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding...
HDL vs. LDL Cholesterol (Differences, Normal Ranges, Meanings)
HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or the "good" cholesterol, and LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or the "bad"...
Heart disease (coronary artery disease) occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to...
A heart attack happens when a blood clot completely obstructs a coronary artery supplying blood to the heart muscle. A heart...
Fatty Liver (NASH)
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NASH occurs due to the accumulation of abnormal amounts of fat within the liver. Fatty liver...
Angina (Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis, and Treatment)
Angina is chest pain due to inadequate blood supply to the heart. Angina symptoms may include chest tightness, burning,...
Cholesterol (Lowering Your Cholesterol)
High cholesterol and triglyceride levels increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Getting your cholesterol and triglyceride...
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Benefits, Uses, Foods)
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that help decrease one's cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as reduce the risk of...
Heart Attack Pathology: Photo Essay
A heart attack is a layperson's term for a sudden blockage of a coronary artery. This photo essay includes graphics, pictures,...
Heart Disease in Women
Heart disease in women has somewhat different symptoms, risk factors, and treatment compared to heart disease in men. Many women...
Heart Attacks in Women
Heart disease, particularly coronary artery disease is the leading cause of heart attacks. Women are more likely to die from a...
Heart Attack Treatment
A heart attack involves damage or death of part of the heart muscle due to a blood clot. The aim of heart attack treatment is to...
Low Cholesterol Diet
Cholesterol is naturally produced by the body, and is a building block for cell membranes and hormones. Low-density lipoprotein...
High Cholesterol: Frequently Asked Questions
Cholesterol occurs naturally in the body. High blood cholesterol levels increase a person's risk of developing heart disease,...
Vitamins & Exercise: Heart Attack Prevention Series
Vitamins and exercise can lower your risk for heart attack and heart disease. Folic acid, vitamins, and homocysteine levels are...
Heart Attack Prevention
Heart disease and heart attacks can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle with diet, exercise, and stress management....
Heart Disease Treatment in Women
Heart disease treatment in women should take into account female-specific guidelines that were developed by the American Heart...
Treatment & Diagnosis
- Diet & Nutrition FAQs
- Sugar FAQs
- Heart Disease FAQs
- Diabetes FAQs
- Stroke FAQs
- Salt FAQs
- High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia) FAQs
- How To Reduce Your Medication Costs
- Pharmacy Visit, How To Get The Most Out of Your Visit
- Indications for Drugs: Approved vs. Non-approved
- Drugs: Buying Prescription Drugs Online Safely
- Drugs: The Most Common Medication Errors
- Medication Disposal
- Dangers of Mixing Medications
- What Are the Risks and Side Effects of Zocor?
- What are Cholesterol-Lowering Statins?
- Does Nizoral Shampoo Interfere with Statins?
- Grapefruit Juice and Drug Interactions
- Generic Drugs, Are They as Good as Brand-Names?
Medications & Supplements
- atorvastatin (Lipitor) vs. simvastatin (Zocor)
- rosuvastatin, Crestor
- Drug Interactions
- Drugs: Questions to Ask Your Doctor or Pharmacist about Your Drugs
- Zocor (simvastatin)
- lovastatin, Mevacor, Altoprev
- ezetimibe and simvastatin, Vytorin
- pravastatin, Pravigard PAC (discontinued)
- lovastatin vs. simvastatin
- fluvastatin, Lescol, Lescol XL
- cerivastatin, Baycol
Prevention & Wellness
- Health Tip: Grapefruit May Interact With Medication
- Whether Statins Cut Alzheimer's Risk May Depend on Gender, Race
- Coming Soon: Lower Cholesterol From a Twice-a-Year Shot?
- High-Dose Statins Boost Survival: Study
- Are There Alternatives to Statins?
- Just a Little of Statins' Effect Enough to Help Heart: Study
- Statins May Reduce Heart Risks Linked to Sleep Apnea: Study
- Prescription Drug Use on the Rise in U.S.
- Prescription Meds: Too Common in Pregnancy?
- Statins Might Reduce Complications After Major Lung Surgery
- Statins Linked to Raised Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Experimental Cholesterol-Lowering Drug Effective, Study Reports
- New Drug Lowers Cholesterol Beyond What Statins Can Do, Study Finds
- Merck Recalls Cholesterol Drug Liptruzet
- Cholesterol Drugs May Boost Your Gums' Health, Too
- Statin Use May Reduce Parkinson's Risk, Study Says
- Most Statin Users Won't Have Major Side Effects
- Statins Plus Certain Antibiotics May Set Off Toxic Reaction: Study
- Cholesterol Drugs Linked to Muscle, Joint Problems: Study
- Could Statins Raise Diabetes Risk?
- Statin Side Effects Often Manageable: Study
- Shopping Around Brings Steep Prescription Drug Savings, Report Finds
- High-Dose Statins Linked to Acute Kidney Damage
- Firm Stops Making Generic Lipitor After Recall
- Statins Plus Exercise Best at Lowering Cholesterol, Study Finds
- Generic Lipitor Recall
- Health Highlights: Nov. 26, 2012
- More New Drugs a Bad Fit With Grapefruit, Study Finds
- New Drug to Lower 'Bad' Cholesterol Shows Promise
- Statins Tied to Reduced Glaucoma Risk
- Statins Won't Hurt, Might Even Help, Your Pancreas: Study
- Statins May Help Prevent Irregular Heartbeat in Elderly
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Who Quit Statins May Face Raised Death Risk
- New Injection Might Lower Tough-to-Treat Cholesterol
- Statin Alternative Looks Promising in Early Trials
- Health Highlights: March 7, 2012
- Health Highlights: March 6, 2012
- Statin Risks Outweighed by Statin Benefits
- Could a Statin Lower Your Risk for Depression?
- New Warnings on Cholesterol-Lowering Statins
- Generic Lipitor FAQ
- Lipitor Recall: Unusual Odor, No Health Problems Reported
- Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Cut RA Risk
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.