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Updated 11 February 2013

Atorvastatin

Atorvastatin is indicated for the lowering of blood cholesterol in patients for whom diet, exercise and weight loss have proven ineffective in reducing high cholesterol levels.

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Atorvastatin is the active ingredient of Lipitor and Aspavor.

Atorvastatin is also one of multiple active ingredients found in Caduet (amlodipine + atorvastatin).

General information

Atorvastatin is indicated for the lowering of blood cholesterol in patients for whom diet, exercise and weight loss have proven ineffective in reducing high levels of blood cholesterol.

Your doctor may prescribe this drug to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or having a stroke, when you are considered to be at risk.

Atorvastatin is not a cure for high cholesterol, but keeps it under control. For it to be effective, it has to be taken regularly, even if you do not notice an immediate effect. The full benefit will only be seen after 4-6 weeks, and time should be allowed for atorvastatin to reach its full effect.

Unwanted side effects may include muscle pain, inflammation, and muscle damage, which are typical with statin cholesterol-lowering drugs. Should you experience any of these, you should contact your doctor.

How does atorvastatin work?

Atorvastatin works by blocking an enzyme in the liver required for the manufacture of cholesterol. As an indirect result, total levels of bad cholesterol - LDL - are lowered. Levels of HDL - the good cholesterol - are also elevated.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 3

Available as: Tablets

What does it do? Atorvastatin lowers high levels of cholesterol

Overdose risk: Medium

Dependency risk: Low

Available as a generic? Yes

Available on prescription only? Yes

User information

Onset of effect: Within 2 weeks.

Duration of action: Up to 30 hours.

Dietary advice: A healthy, low-fat, low cholesterol, high fibre diet is advised for optimal results.

Stopping this medicine: Atorvastatin should not be stopped suddenly without consulting your doctor. Once discontinued, blood cholesterol levels may return to their original, elevated levels.

Prolonged use: Long-term use can affect liver function. Muscle function may also be affected. Your doctor may perform periodic tests to keep an eye on these risk-factors.

Special precautions

Alert your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you have a liver or kidney disease,
  • you have a disease affecting your muscles,
  • you are consuming large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, or
  • you are taking other medication.

Pregnancy: Avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. This medication is passed through breast milk and may affect your baby adversely. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your condition. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: This medication is not intended for use in children, although it is used in certain exceptional cases. It should only be prescribed by a paediatrician.

Elderly: No special precautions need to be taken.

Driving and hazardous work: No special precautions need to be taken.

Alcohol: Avoid excessive alcohol use, as this may increase the risk of liver-related complications.

Possible side effects

Side effect

Frequency

Consult your doctor

Common

Rare

Only if severe

In all cases

Nausea

x

x

Headache

x

x

Constipation

x

x

Diarrhoea

x

x

Dizziness/ light-headedness

x

x

Fever

x

x

Chest pain

x

x

Unexplained muscle pain/ weakness

x

x

Skin rash

x

x

Jaundice

x

x

Impotence

x

x

Insomnia

x

x

Interactions

Drug interactions

Clarithromycin and erythromycin antibiotics

Increased risk of muscle damage

Antifungal drugs

Increased risk of muscle damage

Other cholesterol lowering drugs

Increased risk of muscle damage

Warfarin

Increased risk of warfarin toxicity

Ciclosporin and other immunosuppressive drugs

Increased risk of muscle damage

Disease interactions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have a liver or kidney disease, or if you have a disease affecting your muscles.

Overdose action

A small overdose is no cause for concern. In case of intentional large overdose, seek emergency medical attention.

Recommended dosage

Adults: 10-40mg/day. In the case of inherited high cholesterol, the daily dose is usually 80mg.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

 
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