Lipitor is a brand-name prescription medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to:
- treat high cholesterol levels
- reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and death caused by high cholesterol, and the need for certain heart surgeries
If you and your doctor agree that Lipitor is working for you, you’ll likely take it long term.
Here are some fast facts on Lipitor:
It’s important to note that Lipitor must not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding. It also should not be used if you have liver problems.
Like other drugs, Lipitor can cause side effects. Read on to learn about potential common, mild, and serious side effects.
For a general overview of Lipitor, including details about its uses, see this article.
Lipitor can cause certain side effects, some of which are more common than others. These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days or weeks. But 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 Lipitor in clinical trials:
Mild side effects can occur with Lipitor use. This list doesn’t include all possible mild side effects of the drug. For more information, you can refer to Lipitor’s patient information.
Mild side effects that have been reported with Lipitor include:
- swelling and inflammation in nasal passages and back of the throat
- joint pain
- pain in the arms or legs
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
- upset stomach
- muscle spasms
- insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- muscle pain or weakness*
These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days or weeks. But 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 Lipitor and want to tell the FDA about it, visit MedWatch.
* For more information on this side effect, see “Side effect specifics” below.
Lipitor 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 Lipitor’s patient information.
If you develop serious side effects while taking Lipitor, 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:
- Immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy (a condition in which your immune system attacks your muscle cells). Symptoms can include:
- weakness in muscles close to the center of your body, such as those in your neck, forearms, shoulders, back, and thighs
- trouble lifting your arms over your head
- difficulty climbing stairs or standing up from a chair
- Myopathy (a condition that causes muscle pain and weakness) and rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle tissue).*
- Abnormal liver function.*
- Allergic reaction.†
* For more information on this side effect, see “Side effect specifics” below.
† An allergic reaction is possible after using Lipitor. But it’s not clear whether this side effect occurred in clinical trials of the drug.
Lipitor may cause several side effects. Here are some frequently asked questions about the drug’s side effects and their answers.
Does Lipitor cause eye-related side effects?
It’s possible, but very rare, that Lipitor could cause eye-related side effects.
If you have blurry vision or eye-related side effects while you’re taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help determine what’s causing your symptoms. This could include other medications you take besides Lipitor.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend you stop taking Lipitor and use another drug for your condition.
Do Lipitor’s side effects vary based on its strength (10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, 80 mg)?
Lipitor’s side effects don’t vary based on the strength of the drug. However, some side effects happen more or less often depending on its strength.
For example, in clinical trials, people taking a lower dose such as 10 mg, were more likely to have swelling in their nasal passages and throat. This was compared with people taking the highest dose of 80 mg.
Additionally, joint pain was most commonly reported by people taking a 40-mg dose.
To see a list of how often certain side effects were reported based on the dose of Lipitor people took, view Lipitor’s patient information.
Can Lipitor cause any long-term side effects?
It’s possible for Lipitor to cause long-term side effects, but this is not common.
For instance, abnormal liver function is a serious but rare side effect of Lipitor. It’s possible that liver damage caused by the drug won’t go away over time.
If you have additional questions about long-term side effects of Lipitor, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
What are the side effects of Crestor vs. Lipitor?
Lipitor and Crestor are both statins, and they can cause similar side effects. Some side effects are more common with one medication than with the other, though.
Both Lipitor and Crestor can cause:
These drugs can cause some different side effects, too. For instance, Lipitor is more likely to cause diarrhea. But Crestor is more likely to cause constipation.
To view a full comparison of Crestor and Lipitor, you can check out this article. Your doctor or pharmacist can also provide more information.
Can Lipitor’s side effects include dizziness, cough, hair loss, or memory loss?
Dizziness, cough, hair loss, and memory loss weren’t reported by people taking Lipitor in clinical trials.
Since Lipitor was approved, there have been a few reports of people having memory loss. It’s important to note that memory loss has been reported with all statin drugs, which is the type of drug Lipitor is. And it usually goes away when the statin is stopped.
If you’re concerned about possible side effects from Lipitor, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can review with you the risks and benefits of this drug. And they’ll help you find the best treatment for your condition.
What are Lipitor’s side effects in males vs. in females?
Lipitor’s side effects didn’t differ between males and females during clinical trials.*
To view some of Lipitor’s side effects, see the sections above for lists of mild and serious ones. For a full list of side effects that the medication may cause, check out Lipitor’s patient information.
* Sex and gender exist on spectrums. Use of the terms “male” and “female” in this article refers to sex assigned at birth.
Does Lipitor treatment affect my blood pressure?
It’s important to note that statin drugs, including Lipitor, aren’t approved to treat high blood pressure.
If you have questions or concerns about blood pressure and Lipitor, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
In clinical trials, there weren’t differences in side effects reported in older adults taking Lipitor.
However, adults ages 65 years and older may have a higher risk of muscle problems from Lipitor. This includes muscle pain or weakness. And it applies to all statin drugs, including Lipitor.
If you’re an older adult and you’d like to know more about Lipitor’s side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can review the risks and benefits of this medication.
Learn more about some of the side effects that Lipitor may cause.
Abnormal liver function
Although it’s not common, abnormal liver function is a possible serious side effect of Lipitor.
Most people with this side effect don’t have symptoms, besides changes in levels of liver enzymes on blood tests. But possible symptoms of liver damage can include:
- fatigue (low energy)
- loss of appetite
- pain in your upper abdomen
- swelling in your belly, ankles, or legs
- urine that’s a darker color than usual
- jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes)
In extremely rare cases, serious liver injury and even liver failure has occurred with Lipitor.
Your risk of abnormal liver function increases with higher doses of Lipitor.
What you can do
Your doctor will likely check your liver function before you start taking Lipitor.
They may continue monitoring your liver function using blood tests while you’re taking the medication. This helps your doctor notice abnormal liver function before it becomes serious.
If you experience any symptoms of liver problems while you’re taking Lipitor, call your doctor right away. They’ll have you stop taking the drug. And they’ll check for possible causes of your symptoms.
If your doctor thinks that Lipitor is causing your symptoms, they’ll have you permanently stop taking the medication. And they’ll discuss other treatment options with you.
Muscle pain or weakness
It’s possible that you’ll have muscle pain or weakness with Lipitor. Most people who took the drug in clinical trials didn’t report these effects, though.
What you can do
Because muscle pain or weakness can be a sign of more serious side effects caused by Lipitor, it’s important to tell your doctor about them.
Tell your doctor right away if you have muscle pain or weakness that:
- happens without a reason, such as exercise
- doesn’t go away
Myopathy and rhabdomyolysis
With myopathy you have muscle pain and weakness. And you also have high levels of a substance called creatinine kinase in your blood.
People with the following factors have a higher risk of myopathy with Lipitor:
- being age 65 years or older
- having untreated hypothyroidism
- having kidney problems, such as chronic kidney disease
- taking other drugs that can also cause myopathy
- taking a higher dosage of Lipitor
- drinking more than 1.2 liters of grapefruit juice daily
Rhabdomyolysis is a severe and possibly life threatening muscle condition. It can lead to problems with your kidneys, including kidney failure. It usually requires treatment in a hospital.
Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis can include:
- severe muscle pain and weakness
- brown, red, or tea-colored urine
- loss of consciousness
What you can do
If you have muscle weakness or pain while you’re taking Lipitor, call your doctor right away. They can order lab tests to check your creatinine kinase levels.
Your doctor will have you stop taking Lipitor if they confirm you have myopathy as a side effect.
If you notice symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, immediately call your doctor or seek emergency medical help. Rhabdomyolysis is treatable. And its risks of long-term damage, and even death, increase if it’s not urgently treated.
Symptoms may be mild or serious and can include:
- skin rash
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
- swelling under your skin, typically in your lips, eyelids, feet, or hands
- 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 Lipitor. But if your symptoms are serious and you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
Be sure to talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Lipitor. This drug may not be the right treatment for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. The conditions and factors to consider include those listed below.
Liver problems. You should not take Lipitor if you have liver problems. People with liver problems have a higher risk of side effects from Lipitor, including serious ones such as myopathy. (With myopathy, you have muscle pain and weakness.) Your doctor can recommend safer treatments for your condition if you have liver problems.
Kidney problems. People with kidney problems may have a higher risk of myopathy if they take Lipitor. Tell your doctor if you have kidney issues. Your doctor can help determine whether treatment with Lipitor is safe for you.
Heavy alcohol use. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause liver damage, which is a possible side effect of Lipitor. People who consume large amounts of alcohol and take Lipitor may have an even higher risk of liver damage. If you have more than two alcoholic drinks daily, be sure to tell your doctor before you start taking Lipitor.
Untreated hypothyroidism. People with untreated hypothyroidism may have a higher risk of myopathy with Lipitor. Your doctor can help determine whether Lipitor is safe for you.
Recent stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). Taking Lipitor within 6 months of having a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) can increase your risk of hemorrhagic stroke. (A TIA is also called a ministroke.) With a hemorrhagic stroke, you have bleeding in your brain. Your doctor can help determine whether treatment with Lipitor is safe for you.
Allergic reaction. You should not take Lipitor If you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to Lipitor or any of its ingredients. Talk with your doctor about which other treatments are better choices for you.
Alcohol use with Lipitor
There isn’t a direct interaction between consuming alcohol and taking Lipitor.
However, both alcohol and Lipitor can cause liver damage. Combining the two can increase your risk of this side effect, especially if you consume two or more alcoholic drinks daily.
Before you start taking Lipitor, it’s important to tell your doctor if you consume alcohol. They can advise you on how much, if any, is safe for you to drink while you’re taking Lipitor.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking Lipitor
You should not take Lipitor while pregnant or breastfeeding.
It’s not known whether Lipitor passes into breast milk. But it could cause serious side effects in a breastfed child if it does.
Talk with your doctor if you’re planning on becoming pregnant before you begin treatment with Lipitor. If you’re taking Lipitor and become pregnant, immediately stop taking the drug and call your doctor.
Like most medications, Lipitor may cause side effects.
Most side effects caused by Lipitor are mild and typically go away on their own. However, there are some rare but serious side effects reported by people using the drug in clinical trials. These include myopathy, rhabdomyolysis, and liver damage.
Also, it’s very important that you immediately stop taking Lipitor and contact your doctor if you become pregnant while taking it.
If you’d like to learn more about Lipitor and its side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help answer any questions you have about this drug.
Besides talking with your doctor, you can do some research on your own. These articles might help:
- More information on Lipitor. For details on other aspects of Lipitor, refer to this article.
- A look at your condition. For details about cholesterol, see our list of related articles. To learn more about cardiovascular disease, Medical News Today’s cardiovascular health hub and this list of related articles may be helpful.
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.