If you have high cholesterol or certain risk factors for heart disease or stroke, your doctor might prescribe Lipitor (atorvastatin) for you.
Lipitor is a prescription medication that’s used in certain situations along with a balanced diet to:
- lower cholesterol levels in adults and some children
- reduce the risk of heart and blood vessel problems caused by high cholesterol, such as heart attack and stroke, in adults
- reduce the need for certain heart surgeries in adults
For more details on these uses, see the “What is Lipitor used for?” section below.
Lipitor contains the active ingredient atorvastatin. An active ingredient is what makes a drug work. Atorvastatin is also available as a generic drug.
Lipitor comes as a tablet that you swallow, and you usually take it once per day. Lipitor is classified as a statin. These drugs help lower cholesterol levels in your body.
Read on to learn more about Lipitor’s side effects, dosage, and some frequently asked questions.
Like most drugs, Lipitor may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Lipitor may cause. These lists do not 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 take
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Lipitor. 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 Lipitor can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read Lipitor’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects of Lipitor that have been reported include:
- mild muscle pain and joint pain*
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
- pain in your hands or feet
- upper respiratory infection, such as the common cold
Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from Lipitor can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from Lipitor, 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 Lipitor that have been reported include:
- irregular results of liver function tests, which could be a sign of liver damage
- severe muscle pain*
- allergic reaction*
* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Side effect focus
Learn more about some of the side effects Lipitor may cause.
Muscle pain and joint pain
Some people may experience pain in their muscles or joints while taking Lipitor. In studies, mild muscle and joint pain were common side effects.
Mild muscle pain or tenderness with Lipitor will likely go away on its own. But in rare cases, Lipitor may cause severe muscle pain and muscle weakness. These could be symptoms of more serious conditions, including:
- rhabdomyolysis (for details, see “Rhabdomyolysis” below)
- immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy (a rare condition in which your immune system attacks your muscles and breaks them down)
What might help
Staying well hydrated and increasing exercise intensity and frequency at a slow and steady pace can help minimize joint and muscle pain.
If you have mild muscle or joint pain, your doctor may lower your dose of Lipitor. Or they may prescribe a different drug to treat your condition.
If you have extreme or unexplained muscle pain while taking Lipitor, call your doctor right away. They may have you stop taking the drug while they check for signs of more severe muscle damage. In most cases, muscle and joint pain will go away once you stop taking Lipitor.
In some cases, Lipitor can cause rhabdomyolysis. This is a rare but serious side effect of statins, including Lipitor.
Rhabdomyolysis occurs when your body starts breaking down skeletal muscle tissues. As these tissues break down, they are released into your body, and your kidneys filter them. These tissues are often too much for the kidneys to filter and can lead to kidney damage.
In rare cases, rhabdomyolysis may cause permanent kidney damage (including kidney failure) and can even be fatal. If you have concerns about your risk of rhabdomyolysis during your Lipitor treatment, talk with your doctor.
Minor cases of rhabdomyolysis may not cause any noticeable symptoms. But symptoms to watch for include:
- urine that is brown, red, or cola-colored
- severe muscle pain and weakness, which may make it hard to move your muscles
What might help
A few steps you can take to help prevent rhabdomyolysis include:
- staying well hydrated
- if you exercise, don’t increase how often you work out or the intensity of your exercise too quickly
- talking with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any dietary supplements, including those with caffeine, creatine, and ephedra
If you experience any of the symptoms above, seek medical care right away. Treating this condition early may help limit damage to your kidneys.
Some people taking Lipitor may experience diarrhea. This was one of Lipitor’s most common side effects reported in studies. Diarrhea is typically worse when you first start taking Lipitor, and it usually gets better after taking the drug for a few days.
Symptoms of diarrhea include:
- watery stools
- belly pain and cramps
- weight loss
- body aches or chills
What might help
If you have diarrhea during your Lipitor treatment, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to help you stay hydrated.
To learn more about managing diarrhea, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They may suggest over-the-counter treatments, such as loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol).
Some people may have an allergic reaction to Lipitor. While allergic reaction wasn’t reported in clinical studies of Lipitor, it can still happen.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
- skin rash
- 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 Lipitor. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Your doctor will recommend the dosage of Lipitor that’s right for you.
Below are commonly used dosages, but always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.
Form and strengths
Lipitor comes as a tablet that you swallow. It’s available in four strengths: 10 milligrams (mg), 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg.
Lipitor’s lowest dose is 10 mg per day. The dosage range of Lipitor is 10 mg to 80 mg, taken once per day. The dosage you take will depend on the condition you’re using the drug to treat.
For adults taking Lipitor, the usual recommended dose is 10 mg to 80 mg. Depending on your condition, you may start with a dose of 10 mg to 20 mg and then have your dose increased during your treatment.
For lowering cholesterol in children with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH), the recommended dosage is 10 mg to 20 mg, taken once per day.
Questions about Lipitor’s dosage
Below are some common questions about Lipitor’s dosage.
- What if I miss a dose of Lipitor? If you miss a dose of Lipitor, take it as soon as you remember. But if it’s been more than 12 hours since you were supposed to take the dose, skip that dose and take your next dose at its usual time. You should not take two doses at once to make up for a missed dose. Doing so can raise your risk of side effects from the drug.
- Will I need to use Lipitor long term? Lipitor is meant to be a long-term treatment. If you and your doctor determine that Lipitor is safe and effective for you, you’ll likely take it long term.
- How long does Lipitor take to work? Lipitor starts working as soon as you take a dose. When taken consistently, most people have improvements in their cholesterol within 2 to 4 weeks. You may not feel Lipitor working in your body, but your doctor will monitor your cholesterol levels by ordering certain lab tests during your treatment.
Lipitor is a prescription medication that’s used along with a balanced diet to:
- reduce the risk of heart and blood vessel problems caused by high cholesterol, such as heart attack and stroke, in adults with any of the following conditions:
- coronary heart disease (CHD) or risk factors for CHD, such as high blood pressure and smoking
- type 2 diabetes and risk factors for CHD
- reduce the need for certain heart surgeries in adults with either:
- CHD, or
- risk factors for CHD
- lower cholesterol levels in adults with certain forms of high cholesterol, including a genetic (inherited) condition called homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH)
- lower cholesterol in children ages 10 to 17 years with the genetic condition heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH)
Lipitor belongs to a group of medications called statins. These drugs reduce the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, in your body. This helps prevent heart problems, such as coronary heart disease, chest pain, stroke, and heart attack.
Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about Lipitor.
Does Lipitor cause weight loss, weight gain, diabetes, memory loss, ED, tiredness, or headaches?
No, none of these were reported as side effects in studies of Lipitor.
Keep in mind that Lipitor is prescribed along with a balanced diet. Some people may experience weight loss while taking Lipitor if they make certain changes to their diet.
Other statins used to treat high cholesterol may cause diabetes or memory problems. These side effects weren’t reported in studies of Lipitor. But high blood sugar levels have been reported as a side effect of Lipitor since the drug became available on the market. (Diabetes is a disease that causes high blood sugar.)
Because Lipitor treats high cholesterol, it may actually help reduce symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED). See this article to learn more about the link between ED and high cholesterol.
Certain side effects of Lipitor, such as infection or liver problems, may cause tiredness. But tiredness isn’t a direct side effect of the drug.
Headache isn’t a side effect of Lipitor, but it could be a symptom of other conditions, such as high blood pressure.
If you have concerns about experiencing any of these side effects during your Lipitor treatment, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Is Lipitor a blood thinner or a beta-blocker? And does it lower blood pressure?
No, Lipitor is not a blood thinner or a beta-blocker. Lipitor belongs to a group of medications known as statins. Statins help lower cholesterol levels in your body.
Beta-blockers help manage high blood pressure, and blood thinners help prevent blood clots. Some people taking Lipitor may also need to take beta-blockers or blood thinners, depending on their other health conditions.
If you take other medications and are interested in taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor to make sure the drugs are safe to take together.
Is Lipitor considered a safe medication? Why might some people think it’s bad for you?
Yes, Lipitor is considered a safe drug for most people. It’s been used to treat certain conditions for more than 20 years and has been studied in adults and children.
Lipitor may cause certain side effects, which could make some people think taking the drug is harmful. But the most common side effects reported in studies were mild. Examples of these side effects include diarrhea, joint and muscle pain, sore throat, and upper respiratory infection.
Some serious side effects may occur with Lipitor, but they’re not common. For example, in rare cases, Lipitor may cause severe muscle pain. (To learn more about possible side effects, see “What are Lipitor’s side effects?” above.)
If you have questions about whether Lipitor is safe for you to take, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Will Lipitor cause different side effects in men vs. women?
In studies, no differences in side effects were reported among males* and females* taking Lipitor.
But certain side effects of Lipitor are specific to females who can become pregnant. These are related to taking Lipitor during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. To learn more, see “Pregnancy and breastfeeding” under the “What should be considered before taking Lipitor?” section below.
* In this article, we use the terms “males” and “females” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.
What is Lipitor’s half-life, and how long does it stay in your system?
Lipitor stays in your system for about 3 days. This is based on Lipitor’s half-life, which is around 14 hours. The
What should I know about Lipitor’s alternative drug Livalo?
Lipitor and Livalo are both statins, which help lower cholesterol levels in your body.
Lipitor contains the active ingredient atorvastatin, while Livalo contains pitavastatin. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.) To learn more about Livalo, check out this article. You can ask your doctor if one of these drugs may be right for you.
Will I have side effects after stopping Lipitor?
Ending your Lipitor treatment should not cause any side effects. But if you stop taking Lipitor and do not replace it with a different treatment, your cholesterol may increase again. This could lead to serious heart problems.
If you’d like to stop taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor. They can determine if you should stop taking Lipitor and if you need to start taking a new drug in its place. You should not stop taking Lipitor unless your doctor recommends it.
Lipitor belongs to a group of medications called statins. These drugs reduce the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your body. LDL cholesterol is also known as “bad” cholesterol, and too much of it in your body can lead to serious health problems.
Statins reduce LDL cholesterol by suppressing a certain enzyme in the liver that’s responsible for LDL production. This helps prevent heart problems, such as coronary heart disease, chest pain, stroke, and heart attack.
Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about how Lipitor works.
Lipitor and Crestor are both statin drugs. Statins help lower cholesterol levels in your body.
Lipitor contains the active ingredient atorvastatin, while Crestor contains rosuvastatin. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.)
If you’d like to know more about Lipitor and Crestor, check out this article. Also, talk with your doctor for more information about how these drugs are alike and different.
Some important things to discuss with your doctor when considering Lipitor treatment include your overall health, any medical conditions you may have, and other drugs you take.
Taking a medication with certain vaccines, foods, and other things can affect how the medication works. These effects are called interactions.
Before taking Lipitor, 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 Lipitor.
Interactions with drugs or supplements
Lipitor can interact with several types of drugs. These include:
- gemfibrozil (Lopid) and other fibrates (which help lower triglycerides levels)
- certain antifungals, antibiotics, and antiviral drugs
- the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral)
- the cholesterol medication niacin (Niacor)
- the gout drug colchicine (Colcrys, Mitigare)
- the tuberculosis drug rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane)
- the heart drug digoxin (Lanoxin)
- birth control pills
This list does not contain all types of drugs that may interact with Lipitor. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about these interactions and any others that may occur when taking Lipitor.
See below for details about other interactions that could occur with Lipitor.
Lipitor and grapefruit
While taking Lipitor, you should not eat large amounts of grapefruit or drink more than 1.2 liters of grapefruit juice per day. Doing so could raise your risk of side effects from Lipitor.
If you have questions about consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice during your treatment, talk with your doctor.
Lipitor may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Lipitor. Factors to consider include those in the list below.
- Liver disease. Lipitor is contraindicated in people with liver disease. (A contraindication is a factor or condition that could prevent your doctor from prescribing a drug due to risk of harm.) People who have liver disease or have had it in the past may have a higher risk of side effects from Lipitor. Due to this risk, doctors typically will not prescribe Lipitor. Before taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor if you have liver disease.
- Kidney disease. Lipitor may cause muscle pain and weakness. If you have kidney disease, you may have a higher risk of these side effects. Talk with your doctor about whether Lipitor is safe for you.
- Uncontrolled hypothyroidism. Lipitor may cause muscle pain and weakness. If you have an underactive thyroid that’s not well managed by medication, you may have a higher risk of this side effect. Before taking Lipitor, be sure to tell your doctor about any thyroid conditions you have.
- A recent stroke or ministroke. In rare cases, Lipitor may cause hemorrhagic stroke. If you’ve had a stroke or ministroke within the past 6 months, Lipitor may raise your risk of this side effect. Before starting treatment with Lipitor, talk with your doctor if you’ve had a stroke.
- Diabetes or high blood sugar. In rare cases, Lipitor may cause high blood sugar. If you have diabetes or high blood sugar, taking Lipitor could worsen these conditions. Talk with your doctor about whether Lipitor is a safe treatment option for you.
- Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Lipitor or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Lipitor. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.
Lipitor and alcohol
There are no known interactions between Lipitor and alcohol. But drinking large amounts of alcohol while taking Lipitor can raise your risk of liver damage.
Before taking Lipitor, tell your doctor if you drink alcohol and usually have more than two alcoholic drinks per day. They can determine whether Lipitor is safe for you to take.
Studies have shown that statin drugs, including Lipitor, may cause problems with fetal development (commonly known as birth defects) if used during pregnancy.
If you are able to become pregnant, you should use birth control while taking Lipitor. But it’s important to note that Lipitor can make certain birth control pills less effective. Your doctor can recommend a birth control option that won’t interact with Lipitor.
If you become pregnant while taking Lipitor, stop taking the drug and call your doctor right away. Your doctor can prescribe a cholesterol medication that’s safe to use during pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.
It’s not known if Lipitor passes into breast milk. But because the drug could cause serious side effects in a child who is breastfed, you should not take Lipitor while breastfeeding.
If you’re currently breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor about nursing considerations and your treatment plan.
Your doctor will explain how you should take Lipitor. They will also explain how much to take and how often. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Lipitor comes as a tablet that you swallow. You will usually take it once per day. You should try to take Lipitor at the same time each day. This helps keep a consistent level of the drug in your body.
Accessible medication containers and labels
If it’s hard for you to read the label on your prescription, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Certain pharmacies may provide medication labels that:
- have large print
- use braille
- contain a code you can scan with a smartphone to change the text into audio
Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a pharmacy that offers these options if your current pharmacy doesn’t.
Also, if you’re having trouble opening your medication bottles, let your pharmacist know. They may be able to put Lipitor in an easy-open container. Your pharmacist may also recommend tools to help make it simpler to open the drug’s container.
Taking Lipitor with other drugs
Your doctor may prescribe Lipitor to be taken on its own or with other drugs, depending on the condition you’re taking it to treat.
Examples of other drugs that you may take with Lipitor to treat high cholesterol include:
- bile acid-binding resins, such as:
- cholestyramine (Prevalite)
- colestipol (Colestid)
- colesevelam (Welchol)
- ezetimibe (Zetia)
- injectable medications, such as:
Questions about taking Lipitor
Below are some common questions about taking Lipitor.
- Can Lipitor be chewed, crushed, or split? No, you should not crush, split, or chew Lipitor tablets. You should swallow Lipitor tablets whole. If you have trouble swallowing pills, you can find some helpful tips here.
- Should I take Lipitor with food? You can take Lipitor with or without food.
- Is there a best time to take Lipitor? You can take Lipitor at any time of day. But you should try to take it at the same time every day to keep a consistent level of the drug in your body.
- Can I take Lipitor at night? You can take Lipitor at any time of day, including at night. But as discussed above, you should try to take it at the same time each day.
Questions for your doctor
You may have questions about Lipitor 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 Lipitor 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.
Costs of prescription drugs can vary depending on many factors. These factors include what your insurance plan covers and which pharmacy you use.
Lipitor is available as the generic drug atorvastatin. Generics usually cost less than brand-name drugs. Talk with your doctor if you’d like to know about taking atorvastatin.
If you have questions about how to pay for your prescription, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also visit the Lipitor manufacturer’s website to see if they have support options.
You can also check out this article to learn more about saving money on prescriptions.
Lipitor and Zocor have some similarities and differences.
Both drugs belong to a group of medications called statins, which lower cholesterol levels in your body. But Lipitor and Zocor have different active ingredients. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.) Lipitor contains atorvastatin, and Zocor contains simvastatin.
If you’d like to read more about these drugs, see this detailed comparison. Also, ask your doctor if one of them may be right for you.
Lipitor and pravastatin both belong to a group of drugs called statins. Statins help lower cholesterol. Lipitor contains the active ingredient atorvastatin, and Zocor contains simvastatin. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.)
To see a side-by-side comparison of these medications, check out this article. And talk with your doctor to learn more about Lipitor and pravastatin.
You should not take more Lipitor than your doctor prescribes. Taking more than this can lead to serious side effects.
What to do in case you take too much Lipitor
Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much Lipitor. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach America’s Poison 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.
If you’d like to learn more about Lipitor, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help answer any questions you have about the drug. Here are a few questions you may want to discuss with your doctor or pharmacist:
- Based on my health history, do I have a higher risk for side effects than others taking Lipitor?
- Are there other ways I could manage my cholesterol without medication?
- Is CoQ10 an effective alternative for lowering my cholesterol?
- How can I learn more about managing my cholesterol and keeping my heart healthy?
- What are my treatment options if I’m planning a pregnancy?
To learn more about Lipitor, see these articles:
- Dosage for Lipitor: What You Need to Know
- Lipitor Interactions: Alcohol, Medications, and Others
- Lipitor vs. Crestor: What You Should Know
- Side Effects of Lipitor: What You Need to Know
You can also see this overview of high cholesterol treatment options.
To get information on different conditions and tips for improving your health, subscribe to any of Healthline’s newsletters. You may also want to check out the online communities at Bezzy. It’s a place where people with certain conditions can find support and connect with others.
Will I have to take cholesterol medication for the rest of my life? Anoymous
How long you’ll take medication for high cholesterol depends on several factors, including the specific condition you’re taking Lipitor to treat. For example, if you take Lipitor for a hereditary disease, such as heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH) or homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH), you’ll likely need treatment throughout your life.
If your condition isn’t hereditary, your need for Lipitor or other cholesterol medications could change depending on the lifestyle changes you make. For example, you may try:
- eating a balanced diet with more fiber, fewer starchy foods (such as breads and sweets), and less saturated fat
- exercising at least 150 minutes per week (or about 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week)
- quitting smoking
- drinking less alcohol
You and your doctor can talk about which lifestyle changes might make sense for you to try. They can also provide resources to help you make those changes.
If you have questions about how long you’ll need to use Lipitor, talk with your doctor. And remember, you should not stop taking Lipitor or change your dosage unless your doctor recommends it.The Healthline Pharmacist TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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 another 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.