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Lipitor Patient Tips

Written by C. Fookes, BPharm on Jun 01, 2016

How it works

Lipitor is a brand (trade) name of atorvastatin. Atorvastatin works by blocking an enzyme in the liver that makes different types of lipids (fats and cholesterol). Atorvastatin also boosts the breakdown of lipids. Atorvastatin belongs to a group of drugs known as statins.


  • Lipitor, in conjunction with dietary measures, is used to treat high cholesterol in people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease if initial dietary measures fail to lower cholesterol.
  • Lipitor is also used to lower the risk of coronary events (includes heart attack, stroke, and angina) in patients at high risk of these events - such as people with pre-existing coronary heart disease, diabetes, peripheral vessel disease, a previous history of stroke and stroke-like events or heart attack, or with multiple risk factors (such as older age, smoking, high blood pressure, low HDL-C, and a family history of heart disease).


If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:

  • Nasopharyngitis (swelling of the nasal passages and back of the throat), arthralgia (joint pain), diarrhea, dyspepsia, pain, and urinary tract infections.
  • Muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness - initially needs further investigation to rule out more serious muscle effects (such as rhabdomyolysis - the destruction of muscle cells). People aged older than 65, taking certain medications (for example cyclosporine, itraconazole, HIV antivirals), who drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day or with kidney disease appear more at risk of serious side effects.
  • Lipitor, like other statins, may affect liver function, manifesting as changes in liver function tests or jaundice requiring dosage reduction or discontinuation.
  • May also affect markers of diabetes (such as HbA1c or fasting glucose), and may not be suitable in those with liver or kidney disease.
  • Rarely, has been associated with memory loss, forgetfulness, amnesia, memory impairment, and confusion. These symptoms typically resolve with discontinuation.

Notes: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. For a complete list of all side effects, click here.

Bottom Line

Lipitor is effective at lowering cholesterol; however, its use may be limited by side effects such as muscle pain.


  • Consider temporarily withholding Lipitor and seeking urgent medical advice if you have any acute muscle pain or another condition that may increase your risk of serious muscle injury or kidney failure such as a severe infection, major surgery, trauma, uncontrolled seizures, severe electrolyte or metabolic disorders.
  • Take once daily and avoid large quantities of grapefruit juice.
  • Adhere to the TLC diet, designed by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), or a similar diet, while taking Lipitor.
  • Regular exercise is also important as well as avoiding smoking.
  • Dosage needs to be individualized but initially should start at 10-20 mg/day and be guided by the results of cholesterol tests taken 2 to 4 weeks later.
  • See your doctor straight away if you notice any yellowing of your skin or shortness of breath, unexplained cough or general tiredness.  

Response and Effectiveness

  • Peak levels seen within one to two hours following administration; however, may take one to two weeks of regular dosing before improvements in your cholesterol level are seen, and up to four weeks before the maximal cholesterol-lowering effects of Lipitor are apparent.  
  • May lower total cholesterol by 30-46%, triglycerides by 30-56%, with variable increases seen in HDL.  
  • Possibly more effective than other statins.


Lipitor (atorvastatin) [Package insert] Revised: 11/2015 Parke-Davis Div of Pfizer Inc

  • 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.

  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. This drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. It is an informational resource designed as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of this information. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

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