|Written by health professionals: Doctor, M.D., CphT, and others - but easy to read.|
Atorvastatin (Brand Name: Lipitor) and its Side Effects
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) is one of the most potent of the statin class medications, distributed worldwide by Parke-Davis, a division of Pfizer.
As with all of the statins, atorvastatin (Lipitor) is prescribed for the purpose of lowering excessively high low density lipoprotein cholesterol, along with reducing cardiovascular incidents and the chances of having to undergo surgery for cardiovascular disease.
Regular use of Atorvastatin (Lipitor) has been shown in clinical trials to reduce LDL-C levels by as much as 60%, while reducing the risk of a cardiovascular incident by up to 36% and the risk of having to undergo revascularization surgery, such as coronary bypass, by up to 42%. Keep in mind that these are maximum values and may not reflect your particular response to taking Atorvastatin (Lipitor).
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) medication is only available by a doctor's prescription and, because of its strength, requires a great deal of work, communication and analysis in order to prescribe the smallest effective dose possible.
As a statin drug, atorvastatin (Lipitor) is not a medication where more is better.
Pregnancy and Atorvastatin
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) should never be taken by pregnant or nursing mothers unless the benefit to the mother clearly outweighs the risk to the developing child. The chances of that risk being worth it for cardiovascular disease, which is a chronic disease that takes years to manifest, is rather slim.
Liver Dysfunction and Atorvastatin
In addition, people with active liver dysfunction of any kind should not take Atorvastatin (Lipitor), as it both presents a chance of making liver problems worse and can inflict some dangerous side effects if the liver cannot clear it from the blood properly.
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) is not cleared much through the kidneys, so it's considered relatively safe for people with most kidney problems, but still, watch out.
Before starting atorvastatin (Lipitor), the published literature recommends a blood analysis looking for incipient liver dysfunction, another analysis after taking the medication for twelve weeks, and another 12 weeks after any dose increase.
If atorvastatin (Lipitor) is going to contribute to a liver problem, it will generally show up within the first three months of taking the medication or in the first three months after any increase in daily dose. Even after this initial period, it's still a good idea to have the blood analysis done at least once or twice a year, just to make sure everything's still going well.
Atorvastatin and Children / Teenagers
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) has been tested on children, and has proven relatively safe at a maximum dose of 20 mg per day for boys past puberty and girls who have been menstruating for at least a year down to 10 years of age.
These children had heretozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, which means they inherited it from one but not both of their parents.
Up to 80 mg per day of Atorvastatin (Lipitor) was studied in children with homozygous hypercholesterolemia, which means they got it from both of their parents and have a much more serious form of the disease.
Both of these pediatric clinical studies showed no problems with their development over time as a result of taking Atorvastatin (Lipitor).
Higher doses and younger children were simply not studied due to ethical concerns, but in the studies that were done no problems with development cropped up.
The only statin class that has proven relatively safe over the long term to children down to 8 has been pravastatin (Pravachol).
If a child starts on a statin class or any lipid-lowering medication, he or she needs to have the daily dosage re-evaluated from time to time in order to keep up with development into an adult.
Ingredients in Atorvastatin
Lipitor contains atorvastatin, calcium carbonate USP, candlilla wax FFC, croscarmelose sodium NF, hydroxypropyl cellulose NF, lactose monohydrate NF, magnesium stearate NF, microcrystalline cellulose NF, Opadry White YS-1-7040 (hypromellose, polyethylene glycol, talc, titanium dioxide), polysorbate 80 NF, and simethicone emulsion.
This list of ingredients is only good for atorvastatin marketed under the name brand name "Lipitor" and does not reflect the ingredients in any other form, which will naturally use different inactive ingredients in order to make different tablets.
If you're allergic to anything on this ingredients list for Atorvastatin (Lipitor), then you should not take Lipitor but try and find a different member of the statin class to take.Parke-Davis will not lose the patent on atorvastatin in most countries until 2011, but it may be produced in a few countries as a generic before then, particularly Canada where the patent ran out in 2007.
How long for Atorvastatin to work?
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) reaches its peak concentration in the blood within one to two hours after taking it.
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) generally takes about forty-eight hours to clear out of the body to the point where tests can no longer detect it, as is reasonably standard in the statin class, again with the exception of pravastatin (Pravachol).
There is no preferred time of day to take Atorvastatin (Lipitor), the standards are either morning or evening.
Most cholesterol processing goes on during the night, so doctors generally prescribe it for evening dosing, but the advantage of taking then as opposed to morning has been found marginal in the case of atorvastatin (Lipitor).
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) can also be taken with or without food, whichever makes you more comfortable.
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) takes about two weeks after beginning the medication for a therapeutic response to show up, and maximum therapeutic response will usually be reached in four weeks and continue as long as a dose is taken daily.
This initial time is the same as for lovastatin (Mevacor), fluvastatin (Lescol), and simvastatin (Zocor), while rosuvastatin (Crestor) and pravastatin (Pravachol) provide their initial response in one week.
However, the time frame for maximum therapeutic effect is pretty much the same across the board.
Taking other drugs with Atorvastatin
You shouldn't combine atorvastatin (Lipitor) with, well, darn near anything unless you and your doctor decide that the benefit is worth the risk.
The list of dangerous combinations is pretty lengthy, including grapefruit juice, ketoconazole, itraconazole, danazole, HIV protease inhibitors, nefazodone, cyclosporine, fluconazole, erythromycin, telithromycin, fenofibrate, gemfibrozil, amiodarone, and verapamil. While interactions with these drugs did not all spike up into the "Danger!" range, atorvastatin (Lipitor) is known to have a higher probability of unpleasant side effects at higher doses than most other members of the statin family.
I heard that recent studies showed grapefruit juice was safe, but I couldn't actually find the studies and I tend to go with the "better safe than sorry" philosophy. So, if you love your grapefruit juice, ask your doctor.
On the bright side, there are a few things you can take safely with atorvastatin (Lipitor). Neither antacids or cimetidine cause a problem with Atorvastatin (Lipitor), and combination therapy with colestipol proved to lower cholesterol more than atorvastatin alone. Remember to follow timing guidelines when combining colestipol and atorvastatin (Lipitor). In addition, while careful monitoring is required, atorvastatin (Lipitor) may be able to be taken with digoxin, warfarin and oral contraceptives.
Atorvastatin side effects
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) comes with the same side effects as the rest of the statins. To read more specifically about these statin side effects, just click.
Whenever you take any given drug, it may affect you with different side effects than even another drug in the same family, you and your doctor need to analyze your specific circumstances carefully and find the right one specifically for you. This analysis takes place both before you start on a new medication and after beginning it.
Before you start Atorvastatin you make sure that you've eliminated all of the secondary causes of high cholesterol, such as bad diet, alcoholism, uncontrolled diabetes, hypothyroidism, obstructive liver disease, kidney problems, and high cholesterol brought on by therapy from another drug.
After you've been taking Atorvastatin for a bit, see if you can live with the side effects this particular medication does to you.
Overdose information on atorvastatin (Lipitor) doesn't exist in any detailed form.
As with most prescription drugs, Atorvastatin (Lipitor) has deadly effects on animals when given in extremely high doses over a long period of time, but that doesn't help you when you find your child with the open bottle in hand.
My Physician's Desk Reference, 2006 Edition recommends getting the person who overdosed to a hospital as soon as possible, treat the symptoms as they appear, and do a lot of laboratory tests to check on cholesterol levels, liver enzymes, and kidney function until they're sure to be stable.
Always check you got Atorvastatin when you put your script filled.
Most medications are filled by a pharmacy technician and then checked by a pharmacist for accuracy before being handed to you.
I've been a pharmacy technician since 2003, and in all that time I've made one mistake that my pharmacist didn't catch before our patient got it. Fortunately it wasn't a deadly mistake, but it could have been quite easily. We both had to endure a full review by the state pharmacy board for it, and they ascertained that it was human error and unlikely to happen again so we didn't have our licenses suspended. It was one of the scariest things I've ever been through in my life, and I haven't had a mistake since.
However, the upshot is that both pharmacy technicians and pharmacists are human and can make errors, so here's the description for all of the dosages of Lipitor. Please, please check your medication when you get it from the pharmacy before you take Atorvastatin (Lipitor). It may save your life.
On a side note to what Loni just mentioned, I once got a script filled for my wife, and on taking it home found that the medications had been muddled up with someone elses - my wife got someones gastric reflux medication, and they got her heart medication. Could have been a couple of deaths if I hadn't checked the labels.
All forms of Lipitor are white, elliptical tablets
The 10 mg dosage of Atorvastatin (Lipitor) has "PD155" on one side and "10" on the other.
The 20 mg dosage has "PD156" on one side and "20" on the other.
The 40 mg dosage has "PD157" on one side and "40" on the other.
The 80 mg dosage has "PD 158" on one side and "80" on the other.
Keep in mind that these descriptions are only good for the brand name Lipitor, and will not hold true for any other form of atorvastatin. Get to know what your medication is supposed to look like.
Proper storage helps keep Atorvastatin (Lipitor) from breaking down until its expiration date.
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) should be stored between 20 to 25 degrees C (68 to 77 degrees F), which means it should be kept in a cool pantry or medicine cabinet.
Don't put Atorvastatin (Lipitor) in your refrigerator, don't leave it out on a sunny windowsill, and try to keep it in a relatively cool, dark place.
Protect Atorvastatin (Lipitor) from light and moisture by keeping it in its original bottle or tinted plastic and keeping the lid closed.
Atorvastatin in Conclusion
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) really is one of the most effective statin class medications out there.
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) is also one of the most popular in the world today.
Of course, along with that strength comes some dangers, such as headache, constipation, diarrhea, gas, gastrointestinal upset, rash, and muscle or joint pain that has nothing to do with skeletal muscle breakdown. And, of course, the aforementioned skeletal muscle breakdown itself. If you find you can't live with the side effects of Atorvastatin (Lipitor), please talk to your doctor to find a statin-class or other cholesterol lowering medication you can live with.
Atorvastatin works quite well for millions of people, and offers one of the better tools in the medication arsenal against high LDL-C levels.
Like any medication, atorvastatin (Lipitor) is unique and should be prescribed only by doctors who are quite familiar with it.
If your doctor prescribes Atorvastatin (Lipitor) for you and doesn't suggest regular monitoring, feel free to bring up your concerns. If your doctor dismisses your concerns about this medication out of hand, find a new doctor.
Every medication, herbal or allopathic is dangerous if misused.
Prescription drugs are easy to misuse, that's why they're only available by prescription.
Atorvastatin (Lipitor) is a powerful drug that, when used respectfully and well, can help you acheive the cholesterol levels you need to live a long and happy life.
Parke-Davis can be contacted at:
A Division of Warner-Lambert Company LLC
A Pfizer Company
235 East 42nd Street
New York, NY, 1001705755
800-438-1985 (United States)
Main Research and write by Loni Ice, Editing by Donald Urquhart
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