What is Lipitor? (Atorvastatin)
Lipitor is a HMG-CoA Reductase Inhibitor, also known as a statin. This class of treatments for high cholesterol work by blocking a liver enzyme which generates cholesterol. This medication appears to be the most effective in this class of drugs at lowering unhealthy LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, in some cases up to 51%. It can be virtually as effective as an angioplasty in treating stable coronary artery disease.
The recommended starting dose of atorvastatin is 10 mg once daily. The dosage range is 10 to 80 mg once daily. Atorvastatin can be administered as a single dose at any time of the day, with or without food.
As with other drugs in this class, the risk of muscle breakdown is increased when the drug is given together with other medications such as cyclosporine (Sandimmune), gemfibrozil (Lopid) and erythromycin.
It is not known if lipitor affects the fetus if taken during pregnancy. It may be used in pregnancy if the physician feels that its benefits outweigh the potential risks.
It is not known if Lipitor is secreted in breast milk. Therefore, the physician must decide whether to instruct a pregnant woman to continue taking Lipitor and nursing if the benefits of treatment are judged to outweigh the potential risks, or to discontinue either nursing or Lipitor if the potential risks are judged to outweigh the benefits.
Lipitor is generally well-tolerated, and side effects are rare. Minor side effects include constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, gas, heartburn, and headache. Atorvastatin should be used with caution in patients with alcohol or other liver diseases.
Who is it for
Currently, this drug is approved for use in patients with high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) due to high LDL levels, hereditary elevated fat levels (dysbetalipoproteinemia), familial high cholesterol, and to increase HDL (high-density lipoprotein) levels in patients with high cholesterol and those with both high cholesterol and high triglycerides (mixed dyslipidemia).