By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Lipitor, also known by its generic name of atorvastatin, is a widely used drug indicated for the treatment of hyperlipidemia and the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
As a member of the drug class HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (more commonly known as statins), it works by slowing down the production of cholesterol in the body. It is most widely known for its action in reducing the levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol, in the bloodstream. It also helps to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), sometimes referred to as “good” cholesterol, which is associated with a protective against atherosclerosis.
It should always be administered alongside other lifestyle changes to promote improved health of the heart and cardiovascular system, such as a nutritious diet and increased physical activity. This helps to enhance the protective effect and reduce the risk of myocardial infarction and stroke.
Atorvastatin is most often used in the treatment of hyperlipidemia, as it works directly on the production of cholesterol and has a marked effect on the concentration of cholesterol in the blood stream.
There are several different types of hyperlipidemia for which Lipitor may be used, including:
- Primary hypercholesterolemia and mixed dyslipidemia: indicated in combination with dietary changes to manage elevated levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, apo B and triglycerides and low levels of HDL cholesterol.
- Hypertriglyceridemia: indicated to manage elevated levels of triglycerides after inadequate response to dietary changes alone.
- Primary dysbetalipoproteinemia: indicated to manage abnormal levels of beta-lipoprotein after inadequate response to dietary changes alone.
- Homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia: indicated to reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia.
Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
In addition, Lipitor may also be prescribed to prevent cardiovascular disease in individuals with specific risk factors for the condition. This includes patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol levels and family history of cardiovascular disease.
Atorvastatin is indicated in the following circumstances:
- To reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack in patients type 2 diabetes mellitus and other cardiovascular risk factors.
- To reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack and revascularization procedures in patients with multiple risk factors for coronary heart disease (e.g. hypertension, low HDL cholesterol, smoker and family history of coronary heart disease.)
- To reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, angina and revascularization procedures in patients with coronary heart disease.
In all cases when Lipitor is indicated, dietary and lifestyle recommendations should also be made in order to promote healthy choices that can assist in the action of atorvastatin to manage cholesterol levels.
Last Updated: Nov 2, 2015