If you have problems with your cholesterol or risk factors for stroke or heart disease, your doctor may discuss atorvastatin with you.

It’s a prescription drug that’s used along with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to:

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:

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:

* 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.

Muscle pain

Atorvastatin may cause muscle damage or muscle pain.

These symptoms may be due to a rare, more serious condition called rhabdomyolysis (muscle tissue breakdown). And rhabdomyolysis can lead to kidney damage.

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

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:

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.

Allergic reaction

Some people may have an allergic reaction to atorvastatin oral tablets.

Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

  • rash
  • itchiness
  • 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

Dosage

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.

If you have problems with your cholesterol or risk factors for stroke or heart disease, your doctor may discuss atorvastatin with you.

It’s a prescription drug that’s used together with diet changes and exercise to treat hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and triglycerides).

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.

Interactions

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:

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.

Other interactions

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.

Warnings

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?

Atorvastatin, rosuvastatin (Crestor), pravastatin (Pravachol), and lovastatin are all considered statin drugs.

They work in similar ways to:

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?

No, atorvastatin isn’t a blood thinner. It’s a statin drug that works to:

  • help improve cholesterol problems
  • lower your risk for heart-related problems

For some people, atorvastatin may be prescribed along with a blood thinner. This may be done to lower their risk for certain cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack or stroke.

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.

Keep in mind, hair loss may be due to other medications you’re taking or other health conditions you have. For example, having certain thyroid problems may lead to 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?

It’s been noted in older research that some people taking statins gain weight. But it isn’t known for sure if the drugs themselves cause this side effect, or if it’s due to other factors. (Keep in mind that atorvastatin is a statin.)

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 may lower leptin levels, but more research is needed.

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:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

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.

One older study comparing two statins found that rosuvastatin (Crestor) didn’t cause ED. But atorvastatin did increase ED in people taking the drug. But it’s important to note that this was a small study.

Other older studies have found statins can reduce ED symptoms.

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:

They’re both available as brand-name and generic versions. And they come as tablets you’ll swallow. They also have similar side effects, interactions, and risks.

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:

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. To find current prices for atorvastatin oral tablets in your area, visit GoodRx.com.

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?

You can review tips about starting cholesterol treatment here. Additionally, you can learn more about new treatments for high cholesterol and sign up to read Healthline’s newsletter on heart health.