Atorvastatin, the generic form of Lipitor, is a medication used to help reduce cholesterol levels. It is an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor, or statin.
Though it can help reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, there is a risk of both mild and more serious side effects.
This article reviews everything you need to know about the potential side effects of atorvastatin.
Atorvastatin is a type of prescription medication typically prescribed for people who have high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.
When combined with lifestyle changes, like exercising, maintaining a moderate weight, and eating a nutrient-rich diet, atorvastatin
Your doctor may also recommend you take additional medications to help reduce cholesterol and promote a healthy heart.
Most people who take atorvastatin have no noticeable adverse side effects. But side effects can happen, especially if you have certain risk factors.
Here’s what you should know about atorvastatin:
Like all medications, atorvastatin can cause noticeable side effects in some people. Though most will experience only mild ones, there is a possibility you will experience more severe side effects.
Certain risk factors, outlined below, can increase the likelihood of you experiencing more serious or rare side effects.
Common atorvastatin side effects
The most common side effects of atorvastatin use include:
- muscle aches
- cold-like symptoms, like runny nose, sneezing, and coughing
- joint pain
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
If you do experience these side effects, they should be generally mild and go away within a few weeks of use. If they do not improve or get worse, you should contact your doctor to discuss what you are experiencing. They may be able to adjust the medication.
Rare atorvastatin side effects
In rare cases, you may experience more serious side effects. Some of the more severe, but rare side effects can include:
- liver problems or failure, which can cause stomach issues, muscle pain or weakness, dark urine, loss of appetite, or jaundice
- issues with muscles, including weakness, pain, or tenderness
- allergic reactions to the medication
You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms as they indicate a serious reaction to the medication.
Atorvastatin may not work as expected or cause potentially serious complications when taken at the same time as other medications and supplements. This is known as interactions.
It is important to review all current medications and supplements, including vitamins that you take, with your doctor. This can help the doctor determine whether atorvastatin will work well for you and whether they should adjust or change other medications you are taking.
Some potential interactions include:
- Anti-viral medications can cause levels of atorvastatin to build up in the body.
- Certain anti-fungal medications can also cause levels of atorvastatin to build in the body.
- Fibrates can cause myopathy (muscle weakness).
- Certain macrolide antibiotics can cause your body’s levels of atorvastatin to increase.
- Niacin is associated with cases of myopathy (muscle weakness) and rhabdomyolysis (release of proteins and electrolytes into the blood due to muscle damage).
- Grapefruit juice when consumed moderately or excessively can increase the levels of atorvastatin in the blood and the risk of developing muscle weakness and rhabdomyolysis.
- Rifampin reduces the effectiveness of atorvastatin.
- Colchicine use has caused both myopathy and rhabdomyolysis when taken along with atorvastatin.
- Cyclosporine causes an increased risk of myopathy and can cause too much atorvastatin build up in your blood.
Side effects are possible for anyone taking any medication. That said, certain factors can make it more likely that you’ll have side effects from taking atorvastatin.
You’re at an increased risk of having side effects if you:
- take more than one medication to reduce cholesterol
- have a small body frame
- are 65 years or older
In addition, certain groups of people should avoid taking atorvastatin. These include people who:
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- are allergic to the medication
- consume large amounts of alcohol
- have kidney or liver disease
- are living with diabetes
Learn more about the different types of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Atorvastatin can prove valuable for managing your LDL levels and preventing heart disease. However, side effects may be a concern, especially they’re painful or bothersome.
If you have muscle pain or other side effects that you think are caused by taking atorvastatin, you should talk with your doctor.
Do not suddenly stop taking your prescribed medication without talking with your doctor first. If you have side effects from the medication, your doctor might adjust your dosage or recommend a different statin or other combination of medications.