Lipitor is a prescription medication that’s approved by the FDA to:

  • Treat high cholesterol levels. For this use, it’s prescribed in combination with a healthy diet for adults and certain children. These children are ages 10 to 17 years with high cholesterol caused by heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (a genetic condition).
  • Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and related death, and reduce the need for certain types of heart surgery. Lipitor is prescribed for this use in adults.

Lipitor is approved to treat these conditions in certain situations. For more information about how the drug is used, see the “Lipitor uses” section below.

Drug details

Lipitor contains the active drug atorvastatin, which is classified as a statin. (A medication class is a group of medications that work together in a similar way.)

Lipitor comes as a tablet that you take by mouth. It’s available in four strengths: 10 milligrams (mg), 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg. It’s typically taken once a day.

Effectiveness

For information on the effectiveness of Lipitor, see the “Lipitor uses” section below.

Lipitor is a brand-name drug that contains the active drug atorvastatin, which is also available as a generic medication.

A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. It’s considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. Generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

Lipitor can cause mild or serious side effects. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that may occur while taking Lipitor. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.

For more information on the possible side effects of Lipitor, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you tips on how to deal with any side effects that may be bothersome.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to notify the FDA of a side effect you’ve had with Lipitor, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects of Lipitor can include:*

Most of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. But if they become more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

In clinical studies, reported side effects have been the same for men and women taking this drug.

* This is a partial list of mild side effects from Lipitor. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or visit Lipitor’s prescribing information.
† For more information about these side effects, see “Side effect details” below.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Lipitor aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include:

  • Liver damage. Symptoms can include:
    • fatigue (lack of energy)
    • nausea or vomiting
    • swelling in your belly, ankles, or legs
    • urine that is a darker color than usual
    • jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes)
    • increased levels of liver enzymes (shown in lab tests)
  • Rhabdomyolysis* (a muscle condition that can be life threatening).
  • Allergic reaction.*

* For more information about these side effects, see “Side effect details” below.

Side effects in children

In clinical studies, children who took Lipitor had similar side effects as children who were given a placebo. (A placebo is a treatment with no active drug.) These side effects are similar to those seen in adults, as mentioned above.

Side effect details

You may wonder how often certain side effects occur with this drug, or whether certain side effects pertain to it. Here’s some detail on certain side effects this drug may or may not cause.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Lipitor. It isn’t known exactly how often this occurs. Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (warmth and redness in your skin)

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing

Call your doctor right away if you have a severe allergic reaction to Lipitor. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Muscle pain

It’s possible that you’ll have muscle pain while taking Lipitor.

If you have unexplained muscle pain while taking Lipitor, you should contact your doctor right away. You should also report any unexplained tenderness or weakness. Although most cases of muscle pain aren’t serious, it could be a symptom of a more serious problem.

It’s especially important to talk with your doctor if you’re having other symptoms with muscle pain. For example, you should tell your doctor right away if you have a lack of energy or general feeling of unease (malaise) with muscle pain. These could be signs of a severe and possibly life threatening muscle condition known as rhabdomyolysis.

Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis can include:

  • severe muscle pain and weakness
  • nausea
  • brown, red, or tea-colored urine
  • loss of consciousness

If you have muscle pain or discomfort, your doctor may try lowering your dose of Lipitor. Or, they may prescribe a different drug for treating your condition. In most cases, muscle pain goes away once you stop taking Lipitor.

Diabetes

It’s possible you’ll have problems with your blood sugar, including diabetes, while taking Lipitor. This has been reported by people taking statin drugs (a class of medications) like Lipitor. But it wasn’t specifically reported by people who took Lipitor in clinical trials.

Before taking Lipitor, be sure to tell your doctor if you have diabetes. Also let them know if you’ve had any problems in the past with your blood sugar. While taking Lipitor, your doctor may order blood tests to ensure your blood sugar is staying normal.

If you have additional questions about diabetes and Lipitor, talk with your doctor.

Joint pain

Joint pain is one of the more common side effects of Lipitor. In clinical studies, 6.9% of people who took Lipitor reported joint pain. Of people who took a placebo (a treatment with no active drug), 6.5% reported joint pain in these studies.

If you develop joint pain while taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor. They may suggest treatments for the pain or lower your dose of Lipitor. Or they may decide to have you try a different medication for your condition.

Memory loss

Problems with cognition have been reported with statin drugs (a class of medications that includes Lipitor). Cognition involves mental processes such as thinking and knowing, including memory loss.

Memory loss wasn’t reported in clinical trials of Lipitor or other statins. But there have been rare reports of cognitive issues in people taking statins. These issues involve functions of the brain. Examples of cognitive issues include forgetfulness, confusion, and memory loss.

If you think you’re having cognitive issues while taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor. Memory-loss problems usually go away after stopping the drug. The time this takes can vary from person to person. On average, these problems will go away about 3 weeks after stopping the drug.

Weight gain or weight loss (not side effects)

Weight gain isn’t a side effect of Lipitor. However, Lipitor belongs to a class of medications known as statins, which have been linked to weight gain.

Some researchers have found that people who use statins tend to take in more calories than those who don’t. This includes getting more calories from fat. Researchers think this happens because some people may believe Lipitor will balance out the negative effects of unhealthy eating. Overall, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that statin drugs such as Lipitor cause weight gain.

It’s important to remember that Lipitor and other statin drugs shouldn’t replace a healthy diet and exercise. In addition to taking your Lipitor as prescribed, remember to follow your doctor’s diet and exercise advice.

If you have questions about weight gain while taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor.

The Lipitor dosage your doctor prescribes will depend on several factors. These include:

  • the type and severity of the condition you’re using Lipitor to treat
  • your age
  • other medical conditions you may have
  • other medications you may take

Typically, your doctor will start you on a low dosage. Then they’ll adjust it over time to reach the amount that’s right for you. Your doctor will ultimately prescribe the smallest dosage that provides the desired effect.

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

Drug forms and strengths: 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, 80 mg

Lipitor comes as a tablet that you take by mouth. It’s available in four different dosage options:

  • 10 milligrams (mg)
  • 20 mg
  • 40 mg
  • 80 mg

Dosage for preventing cardiovascular disease

Lipitor is approved to prevent cardiovascular disease in adults. “Cardiovascular” refers to your heart and blood vessels.

The recommended dosage for this use is 10 mg to 80 mg once a day.

Dosage for high cholesterol

Lipitor is approved to treat high cholesterol in adults. For this use, the recommended dosage is 10 mg to 80 mg once daily.

Dosage for heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia

Lipitor is approved to treat heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH) in children ages 10 to 17 years. HeFH is a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol.

The recommended dosage to treat HeFH is 10 mg to 20 mg once per day.

Pediatric dosage

Lipitor is only approved to treat children who are ages 10 to 17 years with HeFH (see above).

The recommended dosage for this use is 10 mg to 20 mg once per day.

What if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of Lipitor, try to take it as soon as you remember. If it’s been 12 hours or more since you missed your dose, simply skip that dose and take your next dose at your regular time. Don’t “double up” and take two doses of Lipitor. This can increase your risk of side effects from the medication.

To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm on your phone or downloading a reminder app. A kitchen timer can work, too.

Will I need to use this drug long term?

Lipitor is meant to be used as 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.

You may wonder how Lipitor compares with other medications that are prescribed for similar uses. Here we look at how Lipitor and Crestor are alike and different.

Ingredients

Lipitor contains the active drug atorvastatin, and Crestor contains the active drug rosuvastatin. Both atorvastatin and rosuvastatin belong to a class of medications called statins. (A medication class is a group of medications that work in a similar manner.)

Uses

Here is a list of conditions that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Lipitor and Crestor to treat.

  • Both Lipitor and Crestor are FDA-approved to:
    • treat high cholesterol levels, caused by various factors, in adults (in combination with a healthy diet)
  • Lipitor is also FDA-approved to:
    • treat high cholesterol caused by heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH), a genetic condition in children ages 10 to 17 years (in combination with a healthy diet)
  • Crestor is also FDA-approved to:
    • treat high cholesterol caused by HeFH in children ages 7 to 17 years (in combination with a healthy diet)

Drug forms and administration

Both Lipitor and Crestor come as tablets that you take by mouth.

Side effects and risks

Lipitor and Crestor can cause very similar side effects, but some different ones as well. Below are examples of these side effects.

Mild side effects

These lists contain up to 10 of the most common mild side effects that can occur with Lipitor or Crestor, as well as mild side effects that both drugs share.

Serious side effects

This list contains examples of serious side effects of both Lipitor and Crestor.

Effectiveness

The use of Lipitor and Crestor in treating high cholesterol in adults has been directly compared in a clinical study.

In this study, adults with high cholesterol were randomly chosen to take one of four different statin drugs. These drugs were atorvastatin (the active drug in Lipitor), Crestor, simvastatin (the active drug in Zocor), and pravastatin (the active drug in Pravachol). People in the study took the drugs for 6 weeks. The researchers wanted to see if any drug was better than the others at lowering people’s LDL cholesterol.

The researchers found that, depending on the dosage used, LDL cholesterol levels were:

  • 46% to 55% lower in people who took Crestor
  • 37% to 51% lower in people who took atorvastatin
  • 28% to 46% lower in people who took simvastatin
  • 24% to 30% lower in people who took pravastatin

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) releases guidelines on managing high cholesterol. The ACC recommends different statins, including Lipitor and Crestor, for treating different people.

The statin your doctor prescribes for you will depend on different factors. These include such things as your age, your cholesterol levels, and your risk for cardiovascular disease (disease affecting the heart or blood vessels). If you have questions about what statin is right for you, talk with your doctor.

Costs

According to estimates on GoodRx.com, Lipitor generally costs more than Crestor. The actual price you’ll pay for either drug depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Lipitor is available as a generic drug called atorvastatin. Crestor is available as a generic drug called rosuvastatin. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. Generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

You may wonder how Lipitor compares with other medications that are prescribed for similar uses. Here we look at how Lipitor and Zocor are alike and different.

Ingredients

Lipitor contains the active drug atorvastatin. Zocor contains the active drug simvastatin. Both atorvastatin and simvastatin belong to a class of medications known as statins.

Uses

Lipitor and Zocor are both approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for:

  • lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease (disease affecting the heart or blood vessels) and related death in adults
  • lowering high cholesterol levels, caused by various factors, in adults (in combination with a healthy diet)
  • treating high cholesterol caused by heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic condition, in children ages 10 to 17 years (in combination with a healthy diet)

Drug forms and administration

Both Lipitor and Zocor come as tablets that you take by mouth.

Side effects and risks

Lipitor and Zocor can cause very similar side effects, but some different ones as well. Below are examples of these side effects.

Mild side effects

These lists contain up to 10 of the most common mild side effects that can occur with each drug, as well as mild side effects that both drugs may share.

Serious side effects

This list contains examples of side effects shared by both Lipitor and Zocor.

Effectiveness

The use of Lipitor and Zocor in treating high cholesterol in adults has been directly compared in a clinical study.

In this study, adults with high cholesterol were randomly chosen to take one of four different statin drugs. These drugs were atorvastatin (the active drug in Lipitor), Crestor, simvastatin (the active drug in Zocor), and pravastatin (the active drug in Pravachol). People in the study took the drugs for 6 weeks. The researchers wanted to see if any drug was better than the others at lowering people’s LDL cholesterol.

The researchers found that, depending on the dosage used, LDL cholesterol levels were:

  • 46% to 55% lower in people who took Crestor
  • 37% to 51% lower in people who took atorvastatin
  • 28% to 46% lower in people who took simvastatin
  • 24% to 30% lower in people who took pravastatin

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) releases guidelines on managing high cholesterol. The ACC recommends different statins, including Lipitor and Zocor, for treating different people.

The statin your doctor prescribes for you will depend on different factors. These include things like your age, your cholesterol levels, and your risk for cardiovascular disease. If you have questions about the statin that is right for you, talk with your doctor.

Costs

According to estimates on GoodRx.com, brand-name Lipitor generally costs more than brand-name Zocor. The actual price you’ll pay for either drug depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Lipitor is available as a generic drug called atorvastatin. Zocor is available as a generic drug called simvastatin. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. Generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

Other drugs are available that can treat high cholesterol. Some may be a better fit for you than others. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to Lipitor, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that may work well for you.

Alternatives for high cholesterol

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat high cholesterol include:

  • other statin drugs,* such as:
    • fluvastatin (Lescol XL)
    • lovastatin (Altoprev)
    • pitavastatin (Livalo)
    • pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • bile acid-binding resins, such as:
    • cholestyramine (Prevalite)
    • colesevelam (Welchol)
    • colestipol (Colestid)
  • ezetimibe (Zetia)
  • fibrates, such as:
    • fenofibrate (Antara, Lipofen, Tricor)
    • gemfibrozil (Lopid)
  • injectable cholesterol medications, such as:
    • alirocumab (Praluent)

* Some of these drugs are also approved to reduce the risk for death from heart problems or stroke. For more information on your treatment options, talk with your doctor.

Alternatives for lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease and related death in adults

Examples of other drugs that may be used to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and related death in adults include:

  • Other statin drugs, such as:
    • fluvastatin (Lescol XL)
    • lovastatin (Altoprev)
    • pitavastatin (Livalo)
    • pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • gemfibrozil (Lopid)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Lipitor to treat certain conditions.

Lipitor for preventing cardiovascular disease

Lipitor is FDA-approved for preventing cardiovascular disease in people considered high-risk for developing this condition. “Cardiovascular” refers to your heart and blood vessels. Examples of cardiovascular disease include stroke and heart attack.

Certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. These risk factors include:

  • age (your risk increases as you get older)
  • smoking or using tobacco
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good” fat in your blood)
  • a family history of cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • being male

Lipitor is also approved to reduce the risk for cardiovascular problems in people with heart disease. This includes people who have:

Having high cholesterol levels in your blood raises your risk for cardiovascular disease. By lowering your cholesterol levels, Lipitor helps lower your risk for developing heart problems.

Effectiveness for lowering the risk of cardiovascular problems and related death

Lipitor belongs to a class of drugs called statins. (A medication class is a group of drugs that work in a similar way.) Like other statins, Lipitor has been shown to help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and related death.

Study in people with high blood pressure

Researchers in one study looked at over 10,000 people with high blood pressure but no history of heart attack. To be in the study, people had to have at least three risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. People in the study took either Lipitor 10 milligrams (mg) or a placebo (a pill with no active drug). Half the people in this study were followed for slightly more than 3 years.

At the end of the study, the researchers compared the people who took the placebo with those who took Lipitor. They found that those who took Lipitor had lowered their risk for cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack, by 36%.

Study in people with type 2 diabetes

A similar study included nearly 3,000 people with type 2 diabetes but without heart disease. To be in the study, people had to have at least one other risk factor for cardiovascular problems. The researchers randomly chose people in the study to take either Lipitor 10 mg or a placebo once daily. Half the people in this study were followed for almost 4 years.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that, compared with people who took the placebo, those who took Lipitor:

  • lowered their risk for cardiovascular problems by 37%
  • lowered their risk for stroke by 48%
  • lowered their risk for heart attack by 42%

Lipitor for treating high cholesterol

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Lipitor for treating high cholesterol. For this use, Lipitor should be combined with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

About cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance. Although people sometimes mistake it as only being harmful, cholesterol is in every cell in your body, and you couldn’t live without it. Your body makes enough cholesterol on its own to meet your needs. Cholesterol becomes an issue only if the amount present in your blood becomes too high.

The term “cholesterol” usually refers to total cholesterol. This is the total amount of cholesterol found in your blood. Total cholesterol consists of:

  • low-density lipoproteins (LDL), sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol”
  • high-density lipoproteins (HDL), sometimes referred to as “good cholesterol”
  • triglycerides, a type of fat that are “building blocks” of cholesterol

The term “high cholesterol” specifically refers to high blood LDL levels. But, in addition to lowering LDL levels, Lipitor has also been shown to:

  • reduce total cholesterol
  • reduce triglycerides
  • increase HDL cholesterol

High cholesterol doesn’t cause symptoms in most people. Often, people don’t know they have it until something serious, like a heart attack or stroke, occurs. For this reason, talk to your doctor about routine cholesterol screening if you’re age 20 years or older.

What Lipitor treats

Lipitor is approved for treating people with the following types of high cholesterol:

  • Primary hyperlipidemia or mixed dyslipidemia. People with primary hyperlipidemia mainly have high blood levels of LDL cholesterol. People with mixed dyslipidemia may have problems with more than one type of cholesterol. For these conditions, Lipitor has been shown to lower LDL, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. It also has been shown to lower levels of a protein known as apolipoprotein B (Apo B). It’s been shown to increase HDL levels as well.
  • Hypertriglyceridemia. People with hypertriglyceridemia have high levels of triglycerides in their blood. Triglycerides are a type of fat. For this condition, Lipitor should be used in combination with a healthy diet.
  • Type 3 hyperlipoproteinemia. Lipitor is used to treat people with type 3 hyperlipoproteinemia who don’t respond to treatment with diet. This is an inherited version of high cholesterol. People with this condition have blood levels of intermediate-density lipoproteins that are higher than normal.
  • Homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. Homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH) is a genetic condition that causes high blood cholesterol levels. People with this condition have high cholesterol that isn’t due to lifestyle or diet choices. To treat HoFH, Lipitor should be used along with other lipid-lowering therapies, if available.

Note: Lipitor hasn’t been studied for treating cholesterol problems called Fredrickson type 1 and type 5 hyperlipidemias. As a result, Lipitor shouldn’t be used to treat people with these lipid conditions.

Hyperlipidemia can usually be classified into five categories based on certain patterns of lipoprotein levels. These categories are called types of Frederickson hyperlipidemia. People with Fredrickson types 1 and 5 hyperlipidemia have higher than normal amounts of chylomicrons. These are a type of protein that transports cholesterol.

Effectiveness for high cholesterol

Clinical studies have shown that Lipitor is helpful in treating high cholesterol.

One study compared adults who took Lipitor with those who took a placebo for hyperlipidemia (high blood lipid levels). A placebo is a pill with no active drug. Researchers in the study observed the people for 6 weeks. They compared their cholesterol levels before and after the study.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that:

  • The total cholesterol of people who took Lipitor decreased by 29% to 45%, depending on the dose used. The total cholesterol of people who took the placebo increased by 4%.
  • The LDL cholesterol of people who took Lipitor decreased by 39% to 60%, depending on the dose used. The LDL cholesterol of people who took a placebo increased by 4%.
  • The triglyceride levels of people who took Lipitor decreased by 19% to 37%, depending on the dose used. The triglyceride levels of people who took a placebo increased by 10%.

Lipitor for treating heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia

Lipitor is approved for treating high cholesterol in children ages 10 to 17 years who have a condition known as heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH). This is a form of high cholesterol that’s inherited (caused by your genes).

High cholesterol usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. This means HeFH isn’t normally diagnosed until your child has a blood test that shows high cholesterol levels. If you have a family history of heart disease, or if you or your child’s other parent has high cholesterol, talk with your child’s doctor. They’ll help determine if your child should be screened for HeFH.

Effectiveness for heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia

Researchers studied 187 children between the ages of 10 and 17 years who had HeFH. The children were randomly given either Lipitor or a placebo (a pill with no active drug) for 26 weeks. The purpose of the study was to see if Lipitor was better at lowering cholesterol levels in children with HeFH.

To be included in the study, the children had to have:

  • an LDL cholesterol level ≥ 190 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or
  • an LDL cholesterol level ≥ 160 mg/dL and a family history of either familial hypercholesterolemia or heart disease

At the end of 26 weeks, the researchers found that:

  • The total cholesterol of children who took Lipitor decreased by 31.4%. The total cholesterol of children who took the placebo decreased by 1.5%.
  • The LDL cholesterol of children who took Lipitor decreased by 39.6%. The LDL cholesterol of children who took a placebo decreased by 0.4%.
  • The triglyceride levels of children who took Lipitor decreased by 12%. The triglyceride levels of children who took a placebo increased by 1%.

Lipitor and children

Lipitor is approved for treating high cholesterol in children ages 10 to 17 years who have a condition known as heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (see above).

There isn’t a known interaction between Lipitor and alcohol use.

However, heavy alcohol use can damage your liver. And liver damage is a potential side effect of Lipitor. Combining the two could put you at greater risk for side effects that involve your liver.

Before you start taking Lipitor, be sure to tell your doctor if you drink alcohol, especially in large amounts. And be sure to ask your doctor if you have any other questions about using alcohol while taking Lipitor.

Lipitor can interact with several other medications. It can also interact with certain foods.

Different interactions can cause different effects. For instance, some interactions can interfere with how well a drug works. Other interactions can increase side effects or make them more severe.

Lipitor and other medications

Below are some of the medications that can interact with Lipitor. This section doesn’t cover all drugs that may interact with Lipitor.

Before taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you use. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.

If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Strong CYP3A4 inhibitors

CYP3A4 is an enzyme that helps your body break down drugs. Taking Lipitor with strong CYP3A4 inhibitors, which are medications that inhibit (slow down) the activity of CYP3A4, can increase the levels of Lipitor in your body. This increases your risk for side effects from Lipitor.

Examples of strong CYP3A4 inhibitors include:

If you’re taking any of these medications, you should talk with your doctor before taking Lipitor. They may lower your dose of Lipitor. Or they may prescribe you a different medication instead of a strong CYP3A4 inhibitor.

Cyclosporine or letermovir

You shouldn’t take the drugs cyclosporine (Gengraf, Sandimmune) or letermovir (Prevymis) while taking Lipitor. Doing so can increase your risk of myopathy (muscle pain or weakness). These drugs can affect how your body handles and breaks down Lipitor by slowing down the protein that helps transport drugs in your body.

If you’re taking cyclosporine or letermovir, you should talk with your doctor before taking Lipitor. They’ll choose the best medications to safely treat your conditions.

Gemfibrozil and other fibrates

You shouldn’t use gemfibrozil while taking Lipitor. Gemfibrozil is a fibrate, a type of drug that helps lower levels of triglycerides (a type of fat found in your blood).

Like cyclosporine and letermovir (see above), gemfibrozil slows down the protein that helps transport drugs like Lipitor in your body. So combining gemfibrozil and Lipitor greatly increases your risk of having myopathy (muscle pain or weakness).

Before taking Lipitor, you should also tell your doctor if you’re taking another fibrate drug, such as fenofibrate. Lipitor can still interact with these medications, although not as severely as with gemfibrozil. This is because fibrate drugs can also cause myopathy as a side effect. Taking these types of drugs in combination with Lipitor can increase your risk for having muscle pain.

If your doctor thinks you should take Lipitor with a fibrate, they may decide to lower your dosage of Lipitor or the fibrate. Or they may decide to replace one drug or the other with a different medication.

Other drugs that increase your risk of muscle pain

In addition to the drugs described above, other medications may increase your risk of myopathy (muscle pain or weakness) if taken with Lipitor.

These medications include:

  • certain combination medications used for hepatitis C:
    • elbasvir/gazoprevir (Zepatier)
  • niacin
  • colchicine (Colcrys)

Talk with your doctor before taking Lipitor if you’re using any of these medications. Your doctor may decide to prescribe a lower dosage of Lipitor or your other medication. Or they may prescribe you a different medication rather than Lipitor or the drugs listed above.

Lipitor and herbs and supplements

No herbs or supplements have been reported to interact with Lipitor. However, you should still check with your doctor or pharmacist before using any of these products while taking Lipitor.

Lipitor and foods

You should avoid drinking excessive amounts of grapefruit juice while taking Lipitor. For more information on how grapefruit juice can interact with medications, explore this guide.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Lipitor.

What type of drug is Lipitor? (Is it a blood thinner, beta-blocker, or an ACE inhibitor?)

Lipitor belongs to a class of medications known as statins. (A medication class is a group of medications that work together in a similar manner.) Statins are used to lower cholesterol levels. Lipitor isn’t a blood thinner, beta-blocker, or ACE inhibitor.

People with high cholesterol, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease may need to take these other types of medications as well. For instance, they may need an ACE inhibitor or beta-blocker to manage high blood pressure. Or they made need a blood thinner to help prevent blood clots (which could lead to heart attack or stroke).

When taking multiple medications, it’s important to confirm with your doctor and pharmacist that they’re all safe to take together. Your doctor or pharmacist can review your medication list to make sure you aren’t duplicating any medications. They can also make sure you’re taking the best medications for your conditions.

Will Lipitor cure my high cholesterol?

No, Lipitor won’t cure your high cholesterol. There’s currently no known cure for high cholesterol.

However, studies have shown that when used with a healthy diet, Lipitor can lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood. This can reduce your risk of having heart disease and other problems, such as stroke.

If you have other questions about treating high cholesterol, talk with your doctor.

Can I eat grapefruit while taking Lipitor?

You should avoid eating large amounts of grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking Lipitor.

Certain substances found in grapefruit can slow down the activity of an enzyme in your body called CYP3A4. CYP3A4 helps your body break down drugs, including Lipitor. So blocking CYP3A4 from working may increase levels of Lipitor in your body. This can increase your risk for side effects from the drug.

Drinking more than 1.2 liters of grapefruit juice per day can put you at a higher risk for side effects.

If you have any questions about eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking Lipitor, talk to your doctor.

Do I need to follow a certain diet while taking Lipitor?

No, there isn’t a specific diet you’ll need to follow while taking Lipitor. However, it’s important to remember that Lipitor shouldn’t replace healthy eating. Lipitor can’t cancel out a poor diet. You’ll need to follow a heart-healthy diet while taking Lipitor. The medication may not work as well otherwise.

The American Heart Association offers dietary recommendations for managing cholesterol and lowering your risk of heart disease, including:

  • eating less saturated fat, meat, and solid fats (like butter or lard)
  • eating more fresh fruit, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains

If you have any questions about what diet is best for you, talk with your doctor or a dietitian.

Does Lipitor cause muscle damage?

Although not common, Lipitor can cause myopathy (muscle pain or weakness) and muscle damage.

For more information, see the “Lipitor side effects” section above.

Why do some people think drugs like Lipitor are bad for you?

Lipitor belongs to a class of medications called statins. (A medication class is a group of medications that work together in a similar way). Some people think statin drugs, such as Lipitor, have too many risks.

This may be because, in a small number of studies, taking statins was linked to an increased risk for certain side effects. These included high blood sugar, type 2 diabetes, and memory problems. However, the risk of these side effects has been shown to be very low.

Also, other risk factors play a role when people develop these side effects. This is why certain people, such as those who are pregnant or have liver disease, shouldn’t take statins.

Whether Lipitor is right for you depends on your health conditions and risk factors. If you have additional questions about taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor.

Lipitor works by lowering the amount of cholesterol made by your body.

What cholesterol is

Cholesterol is a type of lipid. Lipids are fat-like substances made by your liver. Although you may have heard bad things about cholesterol, it’s actually something your body needs to function properly. For example, your body can’t make vitamin D without cholesterol.

Cholesterol can’t travel through your blood on its own. So your liver also makes lipoproteins, which carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. There are two major lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

LDL cholesterol (the cholesterol carried by LDL) is often called “bad” cholesterol. Having too much LDL cholesterol in your blood is known as high cholesterol. When LDL levels are too high, LDL cholesterol can begin to build up on the walls of your arteries. This buildup is called cholesterol plaque.

Cholesterol plaques raise your risk for developing blood clots. This is because plaques narrow your blood vessels and limit your blood flow. This increases the chance that blood could stick to your blood vessel wall, completely blocking off blood flow. Eventually, a plaque may grow large enough to block off blood flow on its own.

Also, cholesterol plaques may break off and travel through your blood. If a plaque reaches an artery in your heart, it can block blood flow and cause a heart attack. If it reaches an artery in your head, it can block blood flow and cause a stroke.

In contrast, HDL cholesterol is often called “good” cholesterol. This is because it works to bring LDL cholesterol back to your liver. Your liver converts cholesterol into bile salts, which then get sent to your intestines for removal from your body. In this way, HDL helps prevent cholesterol plaques from forming in your arteries.

What Lipitor does

Lipitor contains the active drug atorvastatin. Atorvastatin affects the way your body makes cholesterol.

Specifically, atorvastatin blocks the action of an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. An enzyme is a protein your body makes to help speed up reactions, such as making cholesterol.

HMG-CoA is one of the most important enzymes for making cholesterol. By blocking this enzyme, atorvastatin reduces the amount of cholesterol your body makes. This lowers the amount of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and other fats in your blood.

Lipitor also increases the levels of HDL in your blood.

How long does it take to work?

Lipitor begins working as soon as you take your dose. It reaches its highest levels in your blood about 1 to 2 hours after you take your dose. Most people see improvements in cholesterol within 2 to 4 weeks.

However, because of how the drug works, you probably won’t feel any different from taking Lipitor (unless you develop side effects). The only way to know what your cholesterol levels look like is by having a blood test. Your doctor will check your blood from time to time to see how well Lipitor is working.

How long will Lipitor stay in my system?

It takes about 3 days for Lipitor to leave your system.

You should take Lipitor according to your doctor’s or healthcare provider’s instructions.

When to take

You can take Lipitor at any time of day. That’s because the active drug in Lipitor, atorvastatin, stays in your body a long time. So even if you take it in the morning, it will still work just as well at night.

Regardless of when you take your dose, try to take Lipitor at the same time every day.

To help make sure you don’t miss a dose, try setting a medication reminder on your phone or downloading a reminder app. A kitchen timer can work, too.

The best time for you to take Lipitor is when it will be easiest for you to remember.

Taking Lipitor with food

Lipitor can be taken with or without food.

Can Lipitor be crushed, split, or chewed?

No, you shouldn’t crush, split, or chew Lipitor tablets.

As with all medications, the cost of Lipitor can vary. To find current prices for Lipitor in your area, check out GoodRx.com.

The cost you find on GoodRx.com is what you may pay without insurance. The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Before approving coverage for Lipitor, your insurance company may require you to get prior authorization. This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the prior authorization request and decide if the drug will be covered.

If you’re not sure if you’ll need to get prior authorization for Lipitor, contact your insurance company.

Financial and insurance assistance

If you need financial support to pay for Lipitor, or if you need help understanding your insurance coverage, help is available.

Pfizer, the manufacturer of Lipitor, offers a Lipitor Savings Card. This card may help lower the cost of the drug for you. For more information and to find out if you’re eligible for support, call 855-496-8792 or visit the program website.

Generic version

Lipitor is available in a generic form called atorvastatin. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. And generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs. To find out how the cost of atorvastatin compares to the cost of Lipitor, visit GoodRx.com.

If your doctor has prescribed Lipitor and you’re interested in using atorvastatin instead, talk with your doctor. They may have a preference for one version or the other. You’ll also need to check your insurance plan, as it may only cover one or the other.

You shouldn’t take Lipitor while pregnant. Studies have shown that statin drugs, including Lipitor, may cause birth defects if used during pregnancy.

If you become pregnant while taking Lipitor, stop taking the medication and call your doctor.

It isn’t safe to take Lipitor during pregnancy.* Therefore, if you’re sexually active, you need to consider your birth control needs while taking Lipitor if you or your partner could become pregnant.

For women using Lipitor

If you’re using Lipitor and are able to become pregnant, you should use an effective method of birth control while taking the drug.

If you become pregnant while taking Lipitor, stop taking the medication and call your doctor.

For men using Lipitor

The maker of Lipitor hasn’t given birth control recommendations for men using the drug. If you’re a man using Lipitor and you’re sexually active with a female who’s able to become pregnant, talk with your doctor. They can offer advice about your birth control needs while using this drug.

* For more information about taking Lipitor during pregnancy, see the “Lipitor and pregnancy” section above.

You shouldn’t take Lipitor while breastfeeding. It’s not known if the drug passes into human breast milk. If it does show up in human breast milk, Lipitor could cause serious side effects in a child who is breastfed.

The drug does appear in the milk of rats, but animal studies don’t always predict what will happen in people.

If you have questions about taking Lipitor and breastfeeding, talk with your doctor.

Your doctor may prescribe Lipitor to be used on its own or with other drugs, depending on the condition it’s being used to treat.

Examples of other drugs that might be taken with Lipitor for treating high cholesterol include:

  • ezetimibe (Zetia)
  • bile acid-binding resins, such as:
    • cholestyramine (Prevalite)
    • colesevelam (Welchol)
    • colestipol (Colestid)
  • injectable medications, such as:
    • alirocumab (Praluent)

Lipitor is also used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and related death, and to reduce the need for certain types of heart surgery. For this purpose, Lipitor doesn’t have to be used with any particular medication. Your doctor will likely have you continue to take medications you use for other conditions, including heart disease.

Before taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor about your health history. Lipitor may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors affecting your health. These include:

  • A history of liver disease. You shouldn’t use Lipitor if you have liver disease. And people with a history of liver disease may be at a higher risk for side effects from taking Lipitor. Be sure to tell your doctor about any active or past liver disease before taking Lipitor.
  • A history of heavy alcohol consumption. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause liver damage, which may increase your risk for side effects from taking Lipitor. Before you take Lipitor, tell your doctor if you drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
  • Kidney disease. If you have kidney disease, taking Lipitor may increase your risk for developing myopathy (muscle pain and weakness). Be sure to tell your doctor about any history of kidney disease before taking Lipitor.
  • Untreated hypothyroidism. Myopathy (muscle pain and weakness) is a possible side effect of Lipitor. People who have untreated hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) may be at a higher risk for this side effect. Before taking Lipitor, be sure to tell your doctor about any history of thyroid conditions.
  • A recent stroke or transient ischemic attack. If you’ve had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (also called a ministroke) within the past 6 months, Lipitor may increase your risk for having a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke. Be sure to tell your doctor about any history of stroke before you take Lipitor.
  • Allergic reaction. If you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to Lipitor or any of its ingredients, you shouldn’t take Lipitor. Ask your doctor what other medications may be better options for you.
  • Pregnancy. You shouldn’t take Lipitor while pregnant. For more information, see the “Lipitor and pregnancy” section above.
  • Breastfeeding. You shouldn’t take Lipitor while breastfeeding. For more information, see the “Lipitor and breastfeeding” section above.

Note: For more information about the potential negative effects of Lipitor, see the “Lipitor side effects” section above.

Do not use more Lipitor than your doctor recommends. For some drugs, doing so may lead to unwanted side effects or overdose.

What to do in case you take too much Lipitor

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor. You can also call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use their online tool. But if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

When you get Lipitor from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on the bottle. This date is typically 1 year from the date they dispensed the medication.

The expiration date helps guarantee that the medication is effective during this time. The current stance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to avoid using expired medications. If you have unused medication that has gone past the expiration date, talk to your pharmacist about whether you might still be able to use it.

Storage

How long a medication remains good can depend on many factors, including how and where you store the medication.

Lipitor tablets should be stored at room temperature (68°F to 77°F/20°C to 25°C). It should be kept in a tightly sealed container. Avoid storing this medication in areas where it could get damp or wet, such as bathrooms.

Disposal

If you no longer need to take Lipitor and have leftover medication, it’s important to dispose of it safely. This helps prevent others, including children and pets, from taking the drug by accident. It also helps keep the drug from harming the environment.

This article provides several useful tips on medication disposal. You can also ask your pharmacist for information on how to dispose of your medication.

The following information is provided for clinicians and other healthcare professionals.

Indications

In adults, Lipitor is indicated for:

  • reducing the risk of cardiovascular events and mortality in persons with multiple risk factors for coronary heart disease (including risk of future events in persons with existing coronary heart disease)
  • decreasing elevations in total cholesterol, LDL, Apo B, and TGs, as well as increasing HDL, in persons with primary hyperlipidemia or mixed dyslipidemia, as an adjunct to diet
  • reducing TG elevations in patients with hypertriglyceridemia, as an adjunct to diet
  • reducing TG elevations in persons with hyperlipoproteinemia type 3 who don’t respond to diet
  • as an adjunct to other treatments, lowering total cholesterol and LDL in persons with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH)

Lipitor is also indicated in children aged 10 to 17 years who have HeFH. It is used as an adjunct to diet, for reducing total cholesterol, LDL, and Apo B. It is prescribed if their LDL remains 190 mg/dL or above despite diet therapy. It is also prescribed if their LDL remains greater than or equal to 160 mg/dL if the child has a family history of premature heart disease, or if the child has two or more risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.

Administration

Lipitor comes as a tablet that is given by mouth. The typical dosing range is 10 mg to 80 mg once daily, depending on the condition being treated and several patient factors.

Mechanism of action

Lipitor contains the active ingredient atorvastatin, which is an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor. HMG-CoA serves as the catalysts for the rate-limiting step in cholesterol synthesis. By inhibiting HMG-CoA, atorvastatin causes a reduction in cholesterol production.

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism

Atorvastatin undergoes extensive first-pass metabolism, giving a low bioavailability of 15%. Whether the drug is taken with or without food is not expected to have a clinical impact. The drug is ≥ 98% bound to plasma proteins. Metabolism is primarily hepatic via CYP3A4.

Lipitor’s elimination half-life is around 14 hours. However, the drug’s inhibitory effects on HMG-CoA reductase activity have a half-life of 20 to 30 hours, as the drug is turned to active metabolites.

Contraindications

Use of Lipitor is contraindicated in the following patients:

  • persons with active liver disease
  • persons with history of hypersensitivity to atorvastatin or any component of the drug product.
  • pregnant or breastfeeding mothers

Storage

Store Lipitor tablets at room temperature (68°F to 77°F/20°C to 25°C) in a tightly sealed container.

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 other 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.