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Lipitor

Generic Name: atorvastatin (a TOR va sta tin)
Brand Names: Lipitor

Medically reviewed by Kaci Durbin, MD. Last updated on Jan 11, 2019.

What is Lipitor?

Lipitor (atorvastatin) belongs to a group of drugs called HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, or "statins." Atorvastatin reduces levels of "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) and triglycerides in the blood, while increasing levels of "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL).

Lipitor is used to treat high cholesterol, and to lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, or other heart complications in people with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, or other risk factors such as genetically high cholesterol.

Lipitor is for use in adults and children who are at least 10 years old.

Important information

You should not take Lipitor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, if you have liver disease, or if you have had an allergic reaction to Lipitor in the past.

Stop taking Lipitor and tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant.

Serious drug interactions can occur when certain medicines are used together with Lipitor. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all medicines you use now, and any medicine you start or stop using.

Atorvastatin can cause a condition that results in the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, which can lead to kidney failure. Call your doctor right away if you have unexplained muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness especially if you also have fever, unusual tiredness, or dark colored urine.

Avoid eating foods that are high in fat or cholesterol. Lipitor will not be as effective in lowering your cholesterol if you do not follow a cholesterol-lowering diet plan. Lipitor starts to work in about 2 weeks. Lipitor is only part of a complete program of treatment that also includes diet, exercise, and weight control. Follow your diet, medication, and exercise routines very closely.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Lipitor if you are allergic to atorvastatin, or if you have:

  • liver disease; or

  • if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Atorvastatin can harm an unborn baby or cause birth defects. Do not use if you are pregnant. Stop taking Lipitor and tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are taking this medicine.

Atorvastatin may pass into breast milk and could harm a nursing baby. Do not breast-feed while you are taking Lipitor.

To make sure this medicine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • liver problems;

  • muscle pain or weakness;

  • kidney disease;

  • diabetes;

  • a thyroid disorder; or

  • if you drink more than 2 alcoholic beverages daily.

Lipitor can cause the breakdown of muscle tissue, which can lead to kidney failure. This happens more often in women, in older adults, or people who have kidney disease or poorly controlled hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

Atorvastatin is not approved for use by anyone younger than 10 years old.

How should I take Lipitor?

Take Lipitor exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Your doctor may occasionally change your dose to make sure you get the best results. Do not use this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Lipitor is usually taken once a day, with or without food. Take the medicine at the same time each day.

Do not break an Lipitor tablet before taking it.

You may need to stop using this medicine for a short time if you have:

  • uncontrolled seizures;

  • an electrolyte imbalance (such as high or low potassium levels in your blood);

  • severely low blood pressure;

  • a severe infection or illness; or

  • surgery or a medical emergency.

It may take up to 2 weeks before your cholesterol levels improve, and you may need frequent blood test. Even if you have no symptoms, tests can help your doctor determine if Lipitor is effective.

Lipitor is only part of a complete treatment program that may also include diet, exercise, and weight control. Follow your doctor's instructions very closely.

Store at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if your next dose is less than 12 hours away. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while taking Lipitor?

Avoid eating foods that are high in fat or cholesterol. Lipitor will not be as effective in lowering your cholesterol if you do not follow a cholesterol-lowering diet plan.

Avoid drinking alcohol. It can raise triglyceride levels and may increase your risk of liver damage.

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice may interact with atorvastatin and lead to unwanted side effects. Avoid drinking more than 1 liter of grapefruit juice per day while taking this medicine.

Lipitor side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Lipitor: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

In rare cases, Lipitor can cause a condition that results in the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, leading to kidney failure. Call your doctor right away if you have unexplained muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness especially if you also have fever, unusual tiredness, and dark colored urine.

Also call your doctor at once if you have:

  • pain or burning when you urinate;

  • upper stomach pain, weakness, tired feeling, loss of appetite, dark urine, yellowing of the skin or eyes (signs of liver problems); or

  • little or no urinating, swelling in your feet or ankles, feeling tired or short of breath (signs of kidney problems).

Common Lipitor side effects may include:

  • joint pain;

  • stuffy nose, sore throat;

  • diarrhea; or

  • pain in your arms or legs.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect Lipitor?

Certain other drugs can increase your risk of serious muscle problems, and it is very important that your doctor knows if you are using any of them. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any you start or stop using, especially:

  • antibiotic or antifungal medicine;

  • birth control pills;

  • other cholesterol-lowering medication;

  • heart medication; or

  • medicine to treat HIV or AIDS.

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with atorvastatin, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Lipitor only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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