It’s a prescription drug that’s used along with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to:
- lower the risk of heart attack and stroke in adults with type 2 diabetes
- lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, chest pain, or need for certain heart surgeries in adults who:
- have heart disease, or
- are at risk for heart disease and other heart-related conditions
- lower certain high cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels in adults and some children, in certain situations
Atorvastatin oral tablet basics
Atorvastatin calcium is a prescription drug that’s available:
Atorvastatin’s classification is an HMG Co-A reductase inhibitor, which is also called a statin. It comes as a tablet that you’ll swallow.
In this article we describe atorvastatin’s dosage, side effects, uses, and more.
Atorvastatin oral tablet brand-name versions
Atorvastatin is the generic version of the brand-name drug Lipitor. These medications work in exactly the same way to lower bad cholesterol, improve good cholesterol, and lower certain heart-related risk factors.
Atorvastatin oral tablet is a generic drug, which means it’s an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. The brand-name medication that atorvastatin oral tablet is based on is called Lipitor.
Generic drugs are thought to be as safe and effective as the brand-name drug they’re based on. In general, generics usually cost less than brand-name drugs do.
If you’d like to know more about using Lipitor instead of atorvastatin oral tablet, talk with your doctor. Read this Healthline article to learn more about the differences between generic and brand-name drugs.
Like most drugs, atorvastatin oral tablets may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that atorvastatin oral tablets may cause. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.
Keep in mind that side effects of a drug can depend on:
- your age
- other health conditions you have
- other medications you may be taking
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of atorvastatin oral tablets. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.
Mild side effects
Here’s a short list of some of the mild side effects that atorvastatin oral tablets can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read atorvastatin oral tablet’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects of atorvastatin oral tablets that have been reported include:
- joint pain
- common cold symptoms, such as runny nose, coughing, or sneezing
- pain in your arms or legs
- urinary tract infection (UTI)*
Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
* For more information on this side effect, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from atorvastatin oral tablets can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from atorvastatin oral tablets, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects of atorvastatin oral tablets that have been reported include:
- liver damage, which may cause increased liver enzymes
- muscle damage, which may cause pain,* tenderness, or weakness
- allergic reaction*
* For more information on this side effect, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Side effect focus
Learn more about some of the side effects atorvastatin oral tablets may cause.
Atorvastatin may cause muscle damage or muscle pain.
Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis may include:
Some people have a higher risk for muscle pain or weakness with atorvastatin. Specifically, your risk may be higher if you:
- are age 65 years or older
- have untreated hypothyroidism
- have kidney problems
- take certain other drugs with atorvastatin
- take high doses of atorvastatin
What might help
If you have muscle pain while you’re taking atorvastatin, call your doctor right away. They can make sure it’s safe for you to continue taking this drug. And they may suggest ways to help treat this side effect.
Before starting atorvastatin, ask your doctor for more information about this side effect. They can tell you about your risk for muscle-related side effects. They’ll also order lab tests to make sure your kidneys are working well before you start taking atorvastatin.
Diarrhea is a common side effect with statin medications, including atorvastatin.
Keep in mind that long-lasting or severe diarrhea may cause dehydration (low fluid level). And being dehydrated can worsen kidney-related side effects of atorvastatin.
If you have diarrhea with this drug, watch for symptoms of dehydration. These can include making less urine than usual or having dry mouth or dizziness.
What might help
If you have diarrhea with atorvastatin, talk with your doctor. They can suggest ways to help manage this side effect. They may recommend certain diet changes or over-the-counter medications to help lessen your diarrhea. But always check with your doctor before taking any medications with atorvastatin.
If you’re concerned about diarrhea or dehydration with atorvastatin, tell your doctor.
Urinary tract infection
Taking atorvastatin may increase your risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Symptoms of UTI include:
- burning pain with urination
- increased urgency or frequency with urination
- cloudy or bloody urine
- chills or fever
- nausea or vomiting
What might help
If you have symptoms of a UTI, call your doctor right away. They will order certain lab tests to check and see if you have a UTI. If needed, they’ll give you medication to treat the UTI.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to atorvastatin oral tablets.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. They can also include swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing.
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to atorvastatin oral tablet. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Your doctor will explain how you should take atorvastatin oral tablets. They’ll also explain how much to take and how often. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. Below are commonly used dosages, but always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.
Taking atorvastatin oral tablet
Atorvastatin comes as oral tablets that you’ll swallow.
Atorvastatin oral tablets are available in several strengths:
- 10 milligrams (mg)
- 20 mg
- 40 mg
- 80 mg
Atorvastatin oral tablets are taken once each day. Your prescribed dosage of atorvastatin oral tablets depends on:
- your age
- other health conditions you may have
- other medications you may be taking
- the condition being treated
- the severity of your condition
When you first start treatment, your doctor may prescribe the lowest dose (10 mg) to see how your body does with the drug.
After this, your doctor may recommend that you need a high dose of the drug to meet your treatment goals. This dosage range may be anywhere from 40 mg each day to 80 mg per day.
Taking atorvastatin oral tablet with other drugs
Your doctor may prescribe other medications along with atorvastatin to lower cholesterol or other heart-related risk factors. But atorvastatin may also be used on its own for these conditions.
Also, atorvastatin is available as a combination drug with other medications. Examples of these combination medications include:
- atorvastatin and amlodipine (Caduet)
- atorvastatin and ezetimibe (Vytorin)
If you’re taking atorvastatin with other drugs, your doctor may lower your dose of atorvastatin in some cases. They can give you more information about the benefits and risks of using other drugs with atorvastatin.
Questions about taking atorvastatin oral tablet
Here are some common questions related to taking atorvastatin oral tablets.
- What if I miss a dose of atorvastatin oral tablet? If you have a missed dose of atorvastatin, take the dose as soon as you remember. But if it’s been more than 12 hours since your last dose, just skip the missed dose. Then take your next dose as usual. Don’t double your usual atorvastatin dose. Doing so may increase your risk for side effects from the drug. It’s important to take atorvastatin on a regular schedule to treat your condition. You may find reminder tools such as these helpful in keeping track of your dosing schedule.
- Will I need to use atorvastatin oral tablet long term? There’s no set time limit for taking atorvastatin. If you and your doctor decide the drug is helping lower your cholesterol or heart-related risks, you may continue taking it long term.
- Can atorvastatin oral tablets be chewed, crushed, or cut in half? No, you should not cut, crush, or chew atorvastatin tablets. Instead, take them exactly as your doctor prescribes. If you have trouble swallowing pills, ask your doctor or pharmacist about other treatment options.
- Should I take atorvastatin oral tablet with food? You can take atorvastatin tablets with or without food. But, taking them with food may help lessen certain side effects such as nausea that’s related to the drug.
- How long does atorvastatin oral tablet take to work? This drug starts working after about 2 weeks. Keep in mind though, it may take a few weeks to see improvements in your cholesterol levels. Your doctor will regularly order blood tests to see how your levels are doing with atorvastatin. And they’ll recommend if your dosage needs to be adjusted or if any other changes need to be made in your treatment plan. Your doctor can give more information to you about your treatment goals.
Questions for your doctor
You may have questions about atorvastatin oral tablet and your treatment plan. It’s important to discuss all your concerns with your doctor.
Here are a few tips that might help guide your discussion:
- Before your appointment, write down questions such as:
- How will atorvastatin oral tablet affect my body, mood, or lifestyle?
- Bring someone with you to your appointment if doing so will help you feel more comfortable.
- If you don’t understand something related to your condition or treatment, ask your doctor to explain it to you.
Remember, your doctor and other healthcare professionals are available to help you. And they want you to get the best care possible. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer feedback on your treatment.
Specifically, it’s used for the following purposes:
- To lower heart-related risks, such as heart attack, stroke, chest pain, and need for certain heart surgeries. For this use, it’s given to adults who have heart problems or are at risk for developing heart problems due to certain factors. These factors include having a family history of heart problems, smoking, high blood pressure, or other heart-related risks.
- To lower the risk of heart attack or stroke in adults with type 2 diabetes and heart-related risk factors. These risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, and certain kidney or eye problems.
- To lower certain high cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels in adults and some children, in certain situations.
Atorvastatin belongs to a group of drugs called statins. It works by blocking an enzyme (certain type of protein) that’s responsible for making cholesterol in your body.
Note: Atorvastatin should not be used to treat Type 1 or 5 hyperlipidemia. For more information about these conditions, talk with your doctor. They can tell you whether atorvastatin is right for you.
Before you start treatment with atorvastatin, tell your doctor about all of your health conditions and any other medications you take.
Additionally, be sure to let your doctor know if you have:
Also, tell them if you:
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- drink more than two glasses of alcohol each day
Your doctor can tell you about the risks and benefits of treatment with atorvastatin.
Taking medications, vaccines, foods, and other things with a certain drug can affect how the drug works. These effects are called interactions.
Before taking atorvastatin oral tablets, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter types. Also describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions these items may cause with atorvastatin oral tablet.
Interactions with drugs or supplements
Atorvastatin oral tablets can interact with several types of drugs. If taken with atorvastatin, these types of drugs may increase your risk for muscle related problems. Your doctor may need to adjust your dose of atorvastatin. Or they may prescribe a different medication to treat your condition to avoid serious side effects from drug interactions.
Examples of drugs that may interact with atorvastatin oral tablets include:
- macrolide antibiotics, such as clarithromycin and erythromycin
- certain antifungal drugs, such as ketoconazole and itraconazole
- certain types of HIV drugs, such as darunavir, ritonavir, lopinavir, and tipranavir
- certain transplant drugs, such as cyclosporine
- cholesterol-lowering drugs other than atorvastatin, such as:
This list does not contain all types of drugs that may interact with atorvastatin oral tablets. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about these interactions and any others that may occur with use of atorvastatin oral tablets.
Food interactions are possible with atorvastatin oral tablets.
For instance, grapefruit can interfere with this drug. Drinking too much grapefruit juice while taking atorvastatin can cause the drug to build up in the body. And this can increase muscle-related side effect risks of atorvastatin.
Atorvastatin oral tablets have some contraindications. (Contraindications are reasons a drug shouldn’t be used.) These and other warnings are listed below.
If you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health, you may need to avoid using atorvastatin. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take atorvastatin oral tablets. Factors to consider include those in the list below.
- Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to atorvastatin oral tablets or any of their ingredients, you shouldn’t take the tablets. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.
- Kidney problems. You may have an increased risk for muscle-related side effects with atorvastatin if you have kidney problems. The drug can build up and cause muscle pain, weakness, or muscle tissue breakdown. Your doctor can give more information to you about whether it’s safe for you to take this drug.
- Liver problems. Statins such as atorvastatin may cause liver problems or liver damage. If you already have liver problems, you may have a higher risk for this side effect.Your doctor can give more information to you about whether it’s safe for you to take this drug.
- Diabetes. Atorvastatin may increase blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, your doctor may ask you to check your blood sugar level more often when you first start taking atorvastatin. This allows them to see how the drug affects your blood sugar levels. Additionally, you may need to monitor your sugar levels more often than usual while you’re taking atorvastatin.
Use with alcohol
You may have a higher risk for liver problems with atorvastatin if you drink more than two alcoholic drinks each day. Talk with your doctor about the safety of drinking alcohol while you’re taking atorvastatin.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Atorvastatin isn’t safe for use during pregnancy. And due to implications with nursing (breastfeeding), it shouldn’t be used while breastfeeding, either.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor for more information about the risks of using atorvastatin.
Find answers to some commonly asked questions about atorvastatin oral tablet.
Is atorvastatin similar to rosuvastatin, pravastatin, or lovastatin?
They work in similar ways to:
- lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides
- increase good cholesterol
- lower your risk for heart-related problems
These medications have similarities and a few differences. For instance, they each have a different active ingredient. But they all come in forms you’ll take by mouth.
The drugs also have similar side effects, such as:
They also have similar drug interactions and risks related to their use.
To learn more about how these drugs compare, talk with your doctor. They can let you know which drug is better for you.
Is atorvastatin a blood thinner?
- help improve cholesterol problems
- lower your risk for heart-related problems
How does atorvastatin work?
Atorvastatin is an HMG Co-A reductase inhibitor, which is also called a statin.
It works by blocking an enzyme (certain type of protein) that’s responsible for making cholesterol in your body. This is the drug’s mechanism of action.
Statin drugs lower your total cholesterol. This is how they lower your risk for heart-related risks.
Examples of fats that make up your total cholesterol include triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is often referred to as your “good cholesterol.” Statins including atorvastatin can help increase your HDL levels.
Atorvastatin is prescribed together with lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet.
If you have more questions about how this drug work, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Does atorvastatin cause hair loss?
It’s not clear if atorvastatin causes hair loss.
If you’re concerned about hair loss with atorvastatin, talk with your doctor. They may suggest possible options to help manage it.
Will I have weight gain or weight loss with atorvastatin?
Some people may consume more calories due to having lower levels of leptin. (Leptin is a hormone that regulates fat storage in your body.) Atorvastatin
Having lower levels of leptin in your fat cells increases hunger, and this may lead to weight gain. And this could lead to weight gain.
On the other hand, it’s possible to have weight loss with atorvastatin if you have certain side effects from the drug. These include:
If you’re concerned about weight changes with atorvastatin, talk with your doctor. They can discuss with you what to do to manage the change.
Does atorvastatin cause erectile dysfunction (ED)?
It’s unclear if atorvastatin can cause ED.
Developing this condition with the drug may depend on individual factors. For example, ED may be caused by other conditions you have or other medications you’re taking.
If you’re concerned about ED with atorvastatin, ask your doctor about it. They can give you more information about this condition.
Both atorvastatin and simvastatin are statins used to:
- treat cholesterol problems
- lower your risk for heart-related problems, such as stroke and heart attack
If you’d like to learn more about how these drugs compare, see this article. And be sure to talk with your doctor about which medication is right for you.
Don’t take more atorvastatin oral tablets than your doctor prescribes. Using more than this can lead to serious side effects.
If you accidentally took a double dose of atorvastatin, you may experience side effects. Call your doctor if you have any of the serious side effects listed below.
Symptoms of overdose
Symptoms of atorvastatin overdose may include:
- muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness
- yellowing of the whites of your eyes or your skin
- dark colored urine
What to do in case you take too much atorvastatin
Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too many atorvastatin oral tablets. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers, or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 (or your local emergency number) or go to the nearest emergency room.
Costs of prescription drugs can vary depending on many factors. These factors include what your insurance plan covers and which pharmacy you use.
Financial assistance to help you pay for atorvastatin oral tablets may be available. Medicine Assistance Tool and NeedyMeds are two websites that provide resources to help reduce the cost of Atorvastatin oral tablets.
These websites also offer tools to help you find low-cost healthcare and certain educational resources. To learn more, visit their websites.
Several types of medications are available to treat cholesterol problems and lower your risk for heart-related problems. Atorvastatin is one option your doctor may discuss with you.
Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of this drug compared with other medications available to treat your condition.
Here are a few questions you may consider discussing:
- How long will I need to take atorvastatin?
- Will my cholesterol problem return if I stop the drug?
- Are there any supplements I can take with atorvastatin to lower my bad cholesterol?
- Will my dose of atorvastatin change if I lose weight through exercise and diet changes?
Can I drink fruit juices with atorvastatin?Anonymous patient
It’s safe to drink most fruit juices with atorvastatin. But you’ll want to avoid drinking grapefruit juice, especially in large amounts.
While you’re taking atorvastatin, drinking too much grapefruit juice (more than 1.2 liters each day) can cause the drug to build up in the body. This can increase muscle-related side effect risks of atorvastatin.
Other types of fruit juice, such as apple juice, aren’t known to interact with atorvastatin.
If you have more questions about this, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.Alex Brewer, PharmD, MBAAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.