Atorvastatin is a generic drug that’s prescribed for high cholesterol and to lower certain risks for stroke and heart disease. As with other drugs, atorvastatin can cause side effects, such as joint pain and the common cold.

Atorvastatin (also called atorvastatin calcium) is available as the brand-name drug Lipitor.

Atorvastatin comes as an oral tablet. As with other drugs, atorvastatin can cause side effects (adverse effects).

Read on to learn about potential common, mild, and serious side effects. For a general overview of atorvastatin, including details about its uses, refer to this article. Your doctor can also tell you more about atorvastatin.

Atorvastatin can cause certain side effects, some of which are more common than others. These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days to weeks. However, if the side effects last longer than that, bother you, or become severe, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

These are just a few of the more common side effects reported by people who took atorvastatin in clinical trials:

* For more information about this side effect, see “Atorvastatin: Side effect specifics” below.

Mild side effects can occur with atorvastatin use. This list doesn’t include all possible mild side effects of the drug. For more information, you can refer to atorvastatin’s prescribing information.

Mild side effects that have been reported with atorvastatin include:

These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days to weeks. However, if the side effects last longer than that, bother you, or become severe, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you develop a side effect while taking atorvastatin and want to tell the FDA about it, visit MedWatch.

* For more information about this side effect, see “Atorvastatin: Side effect specifics” below.

Atorvastatin may cause serious side effects. The list below may not include all possible serious side effects of the drug. For more information, you can refer to atorvastatin’s prescribing information.

If you develop serious side effects while taking atorvastatin, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

Serious side effects that have been reported and their symptoms include:

To learn more about these side effects, see the “Atorvastatin: Side effect specifics” section below.

* An allergic reaction is possible after using atorvastatin. However, this side effect wasn’t reported in clinical trials.

Atorvastatin tablets come in the following strengths: 10 milligrams (mg), 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg.

In clinical trials of atorvastatin, side effects were more commonly reported with the 20-mg and 40-mg strengths. These included joint pain and muscle pain.

If you have questions about what side effects to expect with the 20-mg or 40-mg dosages, talk with your doctor. To learn more about atorvastatin’s dosages, you can refer to this article.

Side effects of other strengths (10 mg and 80 mg)

Side effects of atorvastatin 10 mg are typically less severe than side effects of the higher strengths, such as 80 mg. You may also have an increased risk of serious side effects if you take higher doses of atorvastatin. (For details about these side effects, see the “Atorvastatin: Serious side effects” section above.)

Talk with your doctor if you have questions about your atorvastatin dosage and potential side effects.

Older adults taking atorvastatin in clinical trials experienced similar side effects as younger adults. However, people over 65 years old may have an increased risk of myopathy.

Myopathy is a type of muscle problem that causes muscle pain, weakness, or tenderness. If it isn’t treated, this side effect could lead to rhabdomyolysis, a more serious form of muscle damage.

If you’re an older adult, your doctor may not prescribe atorvastatin due to the increased risk of developing these conditions. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have concerns about this. To learn more about these conditions, see “Atorvastatin: Side effect specifics” just below.

Learn more about some of the side effects that atorvastatin may cause. To find out how often side effects occurred in clinical trials, see the prescribing information for atorvastatin.

Muscle pain

Muscle pain may occur during atorvastatin treatment. This was not a common side effect reported in clinical trials. However, muscle pain was one of the more common reasons that people stopped taking the drug in trials.

Muscle pain may be a sign of more serious muscle damage, called myopathy. This condition is a potential serious side effect of atorvastatin use. For more information, see “Myopathy and rhabdomyolysis” below.

What you can do

If you have unexplained muscle pain while taking atorvastatin, talk with your doctor right away. This is especially important if you also have a fever or malaise (a general feeling of discomfort).

Your doctor will check to confirm that more serious muscle damage isn’t happening. If they’re concerned about your muscle pain leading to serious side effects, they may recommend you stop taking atorvastatin. They may prescribe a different treatment option for you.

Liver damage

Some people may experience liver damage during atorvastatin treatment. This was a rare, but serious side effect reported in clinical trials of the drug.

Typically, you may not notice any symptoms with liver damage. But symptoms can include:

  • dark urine
  • fatigue
  • lack of appetite
  • pain in the right upper area of your abdomen
  • jaundice
  • nausea and vomiting

If not treated, liver damage from atorvastatin use can lead to liver failure and in rare cases, even death.

What you can do

Before you start atorvastatin treatment, your doctor will order a blood test to check your liver function. When your liver is damaged or inflamed, certain enzymes (a type of protein) are released into your bloodstream. High levels of liver enzymes may indicate liver damage.

If your levels are within the usual range, your doctor may recommend you take atorvastatin. If your levels are high, or if you have liver disease, they may not prescribe you the drug.

While you are taking atorvastatin, tell your doctor if you have symptoms of liver damage. They’ll order routine blood tests to check your liver health. If your liver enzymes increase, they’ll likely recommend you stop taking atorvastatin temporarily. This is so they can identify the reason for your increased liver enzyme levels. And they’ll determine whether it’s safe for you to continue taking atorvastatin.

Myopathy and rhabdomyolysis

Myopathy and rhabdomyolysis are serious conditions that may occur with atorvastatin treatment. It’s not known how often myopathy occurred in clinical trials. However, rhabdomyolysis was rarely reported.

With myopathy, you have pain, tenderness, or weakness of the muscles. If myopathy is not checked and treated by your doctor, it can progress to a more serious muscle condition. This is called rhabdomyolysis. With rhabdomyolysis, your muscle tissue breaks down into substances that are released into the bloodstream. Some of the substances can damage the kidney, possibly causing kidney failure.

Symptoms of these conditions include muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness. They also include fever and malaise (a general feeling of discomfort).

Taking certain medications along with atorvastatin can increase your risk of myopathy and rhabdomyolysis. Other risk factors include:

  • being 65 years or older
  • having kidney problems
  • having untreated hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • taking high doses of atorvastatin
  • consuming large amounts of grapefruit juice on a regular basis

What you can do

While taking atorvastatin, tell your doctor right away if you have any of the above symptoms of myopathy or rhabdomyolysis. If your doctor determines that you have one of these conditions, they’ll likely have you stop taking atorvastatin right away.

Before starting atorvastatin, tell your doctor about all prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) supplements or drugs that you take. This will help them determine your risk of developing myopathy with atorvastatin use.

Nasopharyngitis

Nasopharyngitis (the common cold) can occur while taking atorvastatin. This was the most commonly reported side effect in clinical trials of the drug.

Symptoms can include runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and coughing. This side effect is typically mild and goes away within a few days.

What you can do

If you have symptoms of nasopharyngitis that bother you, talk with your doctor. They can recommend OTC treatments to relieve your symptoms.

If this side effect does not go away, they can discuss potential alternative treatment options for your condition.

Joint pain

It’s possible to experience joint pain while taking atorvastatin. This was one of the most common side effects reported in atorvastatin’s clinical trials. It’s usually mild and may occur with joint swelling.

What you can do

If you have joint pain that’s bothering you, talk with your doctor. They can recommend options for pain relief, such as OTC ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others).

If this side effect does not go away, they can discuss other treatment options for your condition.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, atorvastatin can cause an allergic reaction in some people. However, this side effect wasn’t reported in clinical trials.

Symptoms can be mild or serious and can include:

  • skin rash
  • itching
  • flushing
  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe

What you can do

For mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, call your doctor right away. They may recommend ways to ease your symptoms and determine whether you should keep taking atorvastatin. However, if your symptoms are serious and you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

Atorvastatin may cause several side effects. Here are some frequently asked questions about the drug’s side effects and their answers.

Does atorvastatin treatment cause hair loss?

It’s not likely. Hair loss was not reported as a side effect in clinical trials of atorvastatin.

However, in other studies, people taking atorvastatin reported hair loss. But it’s not known how common this was or whether the drug was the cause.

If you’re concerned about hair loss, talk with your doctor about ways to help prevent or treat this condition.

Should I expect dental side effects from taking atorvastatin?

It’s possible that taking atorvastatin can improve your dental health. But zero negative dental side effects were reported in atorvastatin’s clinical studies.

Some studies have found that statin drugs, such as atorvastatin, may provide health benefits for your mouth and teeth. These benefits may include improved oral wound and bone healing. However, more research is needed to understand the full effect of statins on dental health.

If you have questions about your dental health while taking atorvastatin, talk with your doctor or dentist.

Can stopping atorvastatin treatment cause withdrawal symptoms?

No. Atorvastatin is not known to cause withdrawal symptoms. (With withdrawal symptoms, you experience uncomfortable side effects after you stop taking a substance your body is dependent on.) Withdrawal symptoms were not reported in clinical trials of people taking and then stopping atorvastatin treatment.

However, one study from 2021 suggests that the risk of cardiovascular events may increase after stopping statin drugs. These events include heart attack or stroke. More research is needed to determine what the actual risk might be.

If you’d like to stop your atorvastatin treatment, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Be sure to talk with your doctor about your health history before you take atorvastatin. This drug may not be the right treatment for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. These are considered drug-condition or drug-factor interactions. The conditions and factors to consider include:

Liver problems: Atorvastatin can cause liver problems or liver damage. If you already have liver problems, you may have an increased risk of serious liver disease or liver failure. Talk with your doctor about whether atorvastatin is safe for you to take if you have liver problems.

Kidney problems: Kidney problems can increase your risk of muscle-related side effects from atorvastatin. (For more details, see the “Atorvastatin: Side effect specifics” section above.) Talk with your doctor to learn whether atorvastatin is safe for you to take if you have kidney problems.

Recent stroke: If you’ve recently had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (sometimes called a ministroke) you may have an increased risk of another stroke. This is if you take high doses of atorvastatin. (To learn more about atorvastatin’s dosages, see “How to take” in this article.)Talk with your doctor about whether atorvastatin is safe for you to take if you’ve had a stroke.

Diabetes: Atorvastatin may not be right for you if you have diabetes. This is because the drug can increase your blood sugar. If you have diabetes, talk with your doctor to learn whether you can safely take atorvastatin.

Allergic reaction: If you’ve had an allergic reaction to atorvastatin or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe atorvastatin. Taking atorvastatin could cause you to have another allergic reaction. Ask your doctor what other medications may be better options for you.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Atorvastatin is not safe for people who are pregnant. And it’s not recommended for people who are breastfeeding. For more information, see “Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking atorvastatin” below.

Alcohol with atorvastatin

Alcohol is not known to interact with atorvastatin. However, it may not be safe to consume alcohol while taking the drug.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to liver damage. And atorvastatin can also cause liver damage as a side effect. So, drinking a lot of alcohol while taking atorvastatin can further increase your risk of liver damage.

Talk with your doctor to learn whether alcohol is safe for you to drink while taking atorvastatin.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking atorvastatin

Atorvastatin is not safe to take if you’re pregnant. If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, your doctor will likely not prescribe this drug. They’ll recommend you use effective birth control while taking atorvastatin.

It’s unknown whether it’s safe to breastfeed while taking atorvastatin. Drugs similar to atorvastatin are known to pass into breast milk. This has the potential to cause side effects in a child who’s breastfed.

Your doctor will likely not recommend the drug if you’re breastfeeding. If you’re considering breastfeeding during atorvastatin treatment, talk with your doctor.

If you’d like to learn more about atorvastatin, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help answer any questions you have about side effects from taking the drug. You can also ask them about Lipitor, the brand-name version of atorvastatin.

A generic drug and its brand-name version contain the same active ingredient, so they’re expected to have the same side effects. You can refer to the following articles about atorvastatin and Lipitor for more information:

  • More information about atorvastatin: Learn about other aspects of atorvastatin and Lipitor.
  • Cost: If you’d like to learn about atorvastatin and cost, see this article.
  • Dosage: For information about the dosage of Lipitor, view this article.
  • Drug comparison: To learn how atorvastatin compares with simvastatin, read this article. You can also learn how Lipitor compares with Crestor and Zocor.
  • Interactions: To find out about the interactions of Lipitor, see this article.
  • A look at your condition: For details about your condition, see our cholesterol hub and cardiovascular hub.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today 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.