Lipitor (Atorvastatin) Side Effects

By , BPharm

Atorvastatin, also known by the brand name Lipitor, may cause unwanted side effects in some individuals but not all patients taking atorvastatin will notice these effects.

There are several common side effects, which are noted by up to 1 in 10 individuals taking the medication and a rarely serious. Other side effects that occur less frequently may also present, some of which can result in serious complications. Myopathy and rhabdomyolysis, in particular, are rare side effects that require immediate attention to reduce long-term damage.

Common Effects

Common side effects refer to side effects that affect up to 10% of individuals that take the medication. These side effects associated with atorvastatin include:

  • Myalgia (muscle aches and/or pain)
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Dyspepsia
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Elevated aminotransferase levels

Muscle aches and pain are common among patients taking Lipitor but it is important that patients are aware of more serious adverse effects with similar symptoms, such as myopathy and rhabdomyolysis. This helps to ensure serious complications are identified to enable earlier intervention.

Elevated aminotransferase levels affect approximately 0.5-2% of individuals taking a medication in the Statin drug class, such as atorvastatin. This can usually be resolved with a reduction in dose.

Rare Effects

Rare side effects of Lipitor (atorvastatin) are noted by less than 0.1% of the population and, thus, most patients do not experience them. However, it is important for patients to be aware of them as some have serious outcomes and medical intervention is required as soon as possible.

Rare side effects include:

  • Myopathy
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Renal Failure
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver Failure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Alopecia
  • Paraesthesia
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Impotence
  • Amnesia
  • Nightmares
  • Gynaecomastia
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Angioedema
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis
  • Interstitial lung disease

The most serious side effects that can occur with administration of atorvastatin are myopathy with elevation of creatinine kinase (CK) and rhabdomyolysis, which affect less than 1% of patients. If this occurs, atorvastatin should be stopped immediately and immediate medical care is required.

All statin drugs are also associated with an increased risk of diabetes mellitus type 2 and potential memory loss.

Drug Interactions

Atorvastatin is primarily metabolized by the CYP3A4 enzyme and can interfere with other co-administered medications that also rely on the same hepatic enzymes as a method of elimination.

As a result of this it can interact with clarithromycin, diltiazem, erythromycin, itraconazole, ketoconazole, protease inhibitors and St John’s wort. In some cases, the drug combination is not recommended, but the dose of a medication can be altered to account for the interaction with others.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Nov 2, 2015

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