Atorvastatin is in the class of statin drugs which are used mainly for lowering cholesterol in the blood. Atorvastatin is also know by its brand name Lipitor.  Lipitor also became the best-selling drug of all time with over $125 million in sales between 1996-2012!   Lipitor's patent has expired, so currently less expensive generics are also available.  

What is atorvastatin for?
Atorvastatin is used for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia and hyperlipidemia and can lower the risk of heart attack or stroke in people with risk factors.  

How does atorvastatin work?
Atorvastatin works on the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase which is the rate-limiting enzyme in cholesterol synthesis.  By blocking this enzyme, the production of cholesterol is decreased.
Atorvastatin also reduces triglycerides in the blood and slightly raises HDL (good) cholesterol.

What are some common side effects?


  • Myopathy (muscle weakness/cramping/pain) and rhabdomyolosis (muscle tissue breaks down) are two of the most serious side effects from atorvastatin and occur in less than 1% of people taking the drug

  • Diarrhea

  • Arthralgia

  • Nasopharyngitis

  • Nausea

  • Muscle spasm and muscle pain

  • Urinary tract infections

What should I know about atorvastatin?


  • Do not take atorvastatin if you have active liver disease

  • Do not take if you are pregnant or nursing

  • Do not take if you have an allergic reaction

  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist what other medications you are taking (including vitamins and herbals!), especially if you are taking these medications: Cyclosporine, gemfibrozil, telaprevir, or tipranavir plus ritonavir.

  • Talk to your doctor about eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice (usually recommended to avoid while taking this drug)

  • If you have diabetes, you may need to watch your blood sugar more closely


EducationJoanna Simmon