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Atorvastatin, Oral Tablet

Highlights for atorvastatin

  1. Atorvastatin oral tablet is available as both a generic drug and a brand-name drug. Brand name: Lipitor.
  2. Atorvastatin only comes in the form of a tablet you take by mouth.
  3. Atorvastatin is used to improve cholesterol levels and decrease your risk for a heart attack and stroke. It’s used together with diet, weight loss, and exercise.
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Important warnings

Important warnings

  • Muscle problems: Your risk of muscle breakdown is increased while taking atorvastatin. The risk is greater if you’re a senior, have thyroid problems, or have kidney disease. Tell your doctor right away if you start to have unexplained muscle soreness, pain, or weakness.
  • Liver problems: Lab tests for your liver may be abnormally high while you’re taking atorvastatin and you may have liver problems. Your doctor will monitor this while you’re taking this drug.
  • Diabetes: Atorvastatin may increase your blood sugar levels. You and your doctor should monitor your blood sugar levels carefully while you’re taking this drug.

About

What is atorvastatin?

Atorvastatin oral tablet is a prescription drug. It’s available as a brand-name drug called Lipitor. It’s also available in its generic form. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version.

Why it's used

Atorvastatin is used to improve cholesterol levels in people with different types of cholesterol problems. It’s also used to decrease your risk for a heart attack and stroke. It’s used together with diet, weight loss, and exercise. This drug helps to prevent cholesterol from building up in your arteries. Clogged arteries can block blood flow to your heart and brain.

Atorvastatin may be used as part of a combination therapy. This means you may need to take it with other medications. These may include bile acid resins and other cholesterol-lowering medications.

How it works

Atorvastatin belongs to a class of drugs called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, or statins. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

This drug works by lowering your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol and raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. This medication improves your body’s ability to get rid of the LDL cholesterol through your liver.

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Side effects

Atorvastatin side effects

Atorvastatin oral tablet can doesn’t cause drowsiness, but it can cause other side effects.

More common side effects

Some of the more common side effects that can occur with use of atorvastatin oral tablet include:

  • cold symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and coughing
  • diarrhea
  • gas
  • heartburn
  • joint pain
  • forgetfulness
  • confusion

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Muscle problems. Symptoms can include:
    • unexplained muscle weakness, tenderness, or pain
    • tiredness
  • Liver problems. Symptoms can include:
    • tiredness or weakness
    • loss of appetite
    • upper stomach pain
    • dark-colored urine
    • yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.

Interactions

Atorvastatin may interact with other medications

Atorvastatin oral tablet can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Examples of drugs that can cause interactions with atorvastatin are listed below.

Antibiotics

Certain antibiotics increase your risk of muscle problems when taken with atorvastatin. Examples of these drugs include:

  • clarithromycin
  • erythromycin

Fungal drugs

Taking certain drugs used to treat fungal infections may cause atorvastatin to build up in your body. This raises your risk of muscle breakdown. Your doctor may decrease your dosage of atorvastatin. Examples of these drugs include:

  • itraconazole
  • ketoconazole

Cholesterol-lowering drugs

Other cholesterol-lowering drugs raise your risk of muscle problems when taken with atorvastatin. Your doctor may change your dosage of these medications or have you avoid taking them together. Examples of these drugs include:

  • gemfibrozil
  • medications that contain fibrate
  • niacin

Rifampin

Taking rifampin with atorvastatin may lower the amount of atorvastatin in your body. This means that the atorvastatin may not work as well.

HIV and hepatitis C drugs

Taking certain drugs used to treat HIV or hepatitis C may cause atorvastatin to build up in your body. This raises your risk of muscle breakdown. Your doctor may decrease your dosage of atorvastatin. Examples of these drugs include:

  • protease inhibitors, such as:
    • boceprevir
    • darunavir
    • fosamprenavir
    • lopinavir
    • ritonavir
    • saquinavir
    • tipranavir
    • telapravir

Digoxin

Atorvastatin can increase the amount of digoxin in your blood to dangerous levels. Your doctor will monitor these levels and adjust your medication doses if needed.

Oral birth control pills

Atorvastatin may increase the levels of oral contraceptive hormones in your blood.

Colchicine

Taking this medication with atorvastatin raises your risk of muscle breakdown.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.

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Other warnings

Atorvastatin warnings

This drug comes with several warnings.

Allergies

Atorvastatin can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • trouble breathing
  • trouble swallowing

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you develop these symptoms. Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

Food interactions

Avoid drinking large amounts of grapefruit juice while taking atorvastatin. Drinking grapefruit juice can lead to a buildup of atorvastatin in your blood, which raises your risk of muscle breakdown. Ask your doctor how much grapefruit juice is safe for you.

Alcohol interaction

The use of drinks that contain alcohol raises your risk of liver disease from atorvastatin. Talk to your doctor if you drink more than 2 glasses of alcohol per day.

Warnings for people with certain health conditions

For people with kidney problems: Having kidney problems raises your risk of muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) while taking atorvastatin. Your doctor may monitor you more closely for muscle problems.

For people with liver disease: You shouldn’t take this if you have liver disease since this medication can increase your liver test results. This means that you may have liver damage.

For people with diabetes: Atorvastatin may increase your blood sugar levels. Your doctor may adjust your diabetes medications if this happens.

Warnings for other groups

For pregnant women: Atorvastatin is a category X pregnancy drug. Category X drugs should never be used during pregnancy.

Call your doctor right away if you become pregnant while taking this drug.

For women who are breastfeeding: Atorvastatin may pass into breast milk and may cause side effects in a child who is breastfed. Talk to your doctor if you breastfeed your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breastfeeding or stop taking this medication.

For seniors: People over the age of 65 years have a higher risk of muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) while taking atorvastatin.

For children: Atorvastatin hasn’t been studied and shouldn’t be used in children younger than 10 years. This drug has been shown to be safe and effective in children 10–17 years of age.

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Dosage

How to take atorvastatin

This dosage information is for atorvastatin oral tablet. All possible dosages and drug forms may not be included here. Your dosage, drug form, and how often you take the drug will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

Forms and strengths

Generic: Atorvastatin

  • Form: oral tablet
  • Strengths: 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg

Brand: Lipitor

  • Form: oral tablet
  • Strengths: 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg

Dosage for prevention of heart disease

Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)

The standard starting dose is 10–20 mg taken by mouth once per day. Usual doses range from 10–80 mg taken once per day.

Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

Atorvastatin hasn’t been approved to be used in people younger than 18 years for the prevention of heart disease.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This increases your risk of side effects.

Your doctor may start you on a lowered dosage or a different medication schedule. This can help keep levels of this drug from building up too much in your body.

Dosage for dyslipidemia

Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)

  • The standard starting dose is 10–20 mg taken by mouth once per day. Usual doses range from 10–80 mg taken once per day.
  • When treating homozygous familiar hypercholesterolemia, the dose is 10-80 mg taken by mouth once per day.

Child dosage (ages 10–17 years)

  • In children, atorvastatin is only used to treat heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia.
  • The recommended starting dose for heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia is 10 mg once per day. The maximum recommended dose is 20 mg once per day.

Child dosage (ages 0–9 years)

Atorvastatin hasn’t been studied and shouldn’t be used in people younger than 10 years.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This increases your risk of side effects.

Your doctor may start you on a lowered dosage or a different medication schedule. This can help keep levels of this drug from building up too much in your body.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.

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Take as directed

Take as directed

Atorvastatin oral tablet is used for long-term treatment. It comes with risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you stop taking the drug or don’t take it at all: While eating a healthy diet can sometimes improve your cholesterol levels, atorvastatin can help them even more. If you don’t take atorvastatin, your cholesterol levels may not be controlled. This may raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule: Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely. For this drug to work well, a certain amount needs to be in your body at all times.

If you take too much: You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. You may have the following symptoms:

  • diarrhea
  • gas
  • heartburn
  • joint pain
  • forgetfulness
  • confusion
  • unexplained muscle weakness, tenderness, or pain
  • loss of appetite
  • upper stomach pain
  • dark-colored urine
  • yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

What to do if you miss a dose: Take your dose as soon as you remember. But if you remember just a few hours before your next scheduled dose, take only one dose. Never try to catch up by taking two doses at once. This could result in dangerous side effects.

How to tell if the drug is working: You won’t be able to feel atorvastatin working. Your doctor will measure your cholesterol levels to see how well atorvastatin is working for you. Your doctor may adjust your dosage depending on your cholesterol levels.

Important considerations

Important considerations for taking atorvastatin

Keep these considerations in mind if your doctor prescribes atorvastatin oral tablet for you.

General

  • Don’t cut or crush the tablet.

Storage

  • Store atorvastatin at room temperature between 68°F (20°C) and 77°F (25°C). Keep it away from high temperatures.
  • Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

Refills

A prescription for this medication is refillable. You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Clinical monitoring

While you’re being treated with atorvastatin, your doctor will check your cholesterol levels and liver function. This will be done through blood tests.

Your diet

Your doctor may have you follow a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet while you take this drug.

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Alternatives

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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