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Jul 25, 2023


Cholesterol MedicationLowering Cholesterol

Atorvastatin (Lipitor)

Atorvastatin (Lipitor) is the most frequently used statin (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) to treat high cholesterol in the U.S. It comes in both high intensity and moderate intensity.

Unlike other statins, atorvastatin can boost the number of LDL receptors in your liver cells, which improves the absorption and breakdown of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Your liver is where the effects of this medication are primarily seen.

Atorvastatin reduces your LDL and triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood) while increasing your “good” cholesterol (HDL). As a result atorvastatin lowers your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Learn more about cholesterol markers.

How statins work

Statins are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. A natural chemical called mevalonate is synthesized by the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase), then used to create sterols (lipids), including cholesterol. Statins block this enzyme to reduce total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol synthesis in your liver.

Additionally, statins increase liver's ability to take in and break down cholesterol from your blood.

How does Atorvastatin compare to other statins?

The statin that is most frequently administered across the nation is atorvastatin. It's available in high-intensity dosages that include 40 mg and 80 mg, as well as moderate-intensity dosages that include 10 mg and 20 mg.

For those with preexisting cardiovascular disease, atorvastatin is frequently prescribed as the first-line medication. In other words, atorvastatin is the first-choice statin for the treatment of various heart conditions. Given its high efficacy, this medication is also the preferred choice for patients who need to significantly lower their cholesterol levels.

Although atorvastatin and rosuvastatin are classified as high-intensity statins, various studies indicate that atorvastatin has a larger effect in reducing Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) levels than other statins, including pitavastatin.

The 2 other statins with a greater affinity than atorvastatin are rosuvastatin and pitavastatin, which both have a reasonably high binding affinity for the HMG CoA reductase enzyme that aids in the production of cholesterol.

If you’re on multiple medications, atorvastatin might not be the best choice. Atorvastatin is processed by an enzyme called cytochrome P450 in your liver. This enzyme is used to metabolize numerous other drugs, increasing drug interactions. Be sure to let your doctor know any other medications you are on.

What is Atorvastatin used for?

This medication is commonly used to treat the following medical conditions:

  • High cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia)
  • Decreases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and chest pain, particularly in individuals with type 2 diabetes and/or coronary heart disease

How is Atorvastatin administered?

Atorvastatin can be taken with or without food and is available in a tablet in the following dosages:

  • High-intensity: 40–80 mg taken by mouth daily
    Can reduce LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, by at least 50%
  • Moderate-Intensity: 10–20 mg taken by mouth daily
    Can reduce LDL by approximately 30%–49%

When deciding initiating or maintenance dosage, the patient’s features such as therapy goal and responsiveness should be considered.

Within 2 to 4 weeks following atorvastatin's start-up and/or adjustment, your lipid levels should be assessed, and the dosage should be changed as necessary.

Children under the age of 10 have not been studied for the safety and effectiveness of this medication.

Side effects

Common side effects

  • Muscle weakness, stiffness and spasms (Myopathy)
  • Muscle pain (Myalgias)
  • Joint pain (Arthralgia)
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Jaundice (yellowing of your skin)
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Serious side effects

  • Difficulty raising your arms and/or rising or standing
  • Muscle aches in your hips, shoulders, neck, and back
  • Hepatic (liver) issues, such as upper abdominal pain, weakness, fatigue, decreased appetite, dark urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Kidney issues, such as little to no urination, ankle or foot swelling, fatigue, or shortness of breath.

If you’re experiencing any of the serious side effects listed above, immediately call your doctor and stop taking this medication.

Learn more about statin side effects.

Can I take Atorvastatin if I’m pregnant?

Let your doctor know if you get pregnant or think you could be pregnant. Your doctor will advise you on whether you should discontinue this medication during pregnancy and if you should temporarily stop using atorvastatin while nursing or breastfeeding.

Following giving birth, women who need statins and are at high risk of heart attack or stroke should not breastfeed; instead, they should utilize alternatives such as baby formula.

Can Atorvastatin interact with anything?

It's crucial that your physician be aware of any additional medications you are taking because some of them might significantly raise your chance of developing serious muscle issues.

Inform your physician of all prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, including:

  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs, including gemfibrozil and fenofibrate.
  • Antifungals or antibiotics, including azithromycin, rifampin, clarithromycin, erythromycin, fluconazole, and itraconazole.
  • Contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • Cardiovascular drugs, including clopidogrel, digoxin, amiodarone, diltiazem, and verapamil.
  • HIV or hepatitis C medications, including atazanavir, ritonavir, and indinavir.
  • Medications used for gout, including, colchicine.
  • Niacin
  • Grapefruit juice
  • St John's Wort

What happens if I miss a dose?

Atorvastatin should be taken at roughly the same time every day so you don’t forget to take it.

However, if you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it's almost time for your next dose. In this case, skip the forgotten dose and take the next one at the usual time. Do not take 2 doses together to make up for a missed dose.

Speak With Your Doctor

Atorvastatin is relatively considered a safe and effective medication when taken appropriately (as prescribed by your doctor). Talk to your doctor today about using atorvastatin and send your prescription to Marley Drug. Save up to 95% compared to your local pharmacy by using Marley Drug.

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