Atorvastatin

Order atorvastatin to reduce your cholesterol levels

Atorvastatin belongs to a group of medicines known as statins. In combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle, they help to reduce your “bad” cholesterol and your risk of heart attack or stroke.

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Strength Quantity Price Stock
10mg84 tablets£16.99In Stock
20mg84 tablets£16.99In Stock
40mg84 tablets£16.99In Stock
80mg84 tablets£16.99In Stock
Prices exclude a prescription fee. This treatment requires a quick online consultation,
which a doctor will review to determine if a prescription is appropriate.

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Information

Dr Samantha Miller

Reviewed by Dr Samantha Miller MB ChB
(2017, University of Glasgow)
GMC number: 7561464

Information last reviewed 04/09/2021

About

What is atorvastatin?

Atorvastatin belongs to a group of medications known as statins. In combination with a healthy lifestyle and diet, they are used to reduce “bad” cholesterol and increase “good” cholesterol in the blood, reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke.

How does atorvastatin work?

Cholesterol is a substance produced by the liver that is vital to the functioning of all cells in the body. While having a high level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, is good for you, a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol can build up in your arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke. The best way to reduce the amount of LDL in the blood is by eating a healthy diet that is low in fat and cholesterol, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. In addition to these lifestyle changes, atorvastatin may be prescribed to reduce the amount of LDL produced by the liver. 

Ingredients

Active ingredients

The active ingredient in atorvastatin is atorvastatin calcium trihydrate.

Inactive ingredients

The inactive ingredients in atorvastatin are calcium carbonate, microcrystalline cellulose, lactose monohydrate, croscarmellose sodium, polysorbate 80, hydroxypropyl cellulose, magnesium stearate, hypromellose, macrogol 8000, titanium dioxide (E171), talc, simethicone, stearate emulsifiers (polyethylene glycol sorbitan tristearate, polyethoxylate stearate, glycerides), thickeners (methylcellulose, xanthan gum), benzoic acid, sorbic acid and sulfuric acid

Please note: inactive ingredients may vary for different brands of generic medication.

Dosage

How to take atorvastatin?

Always take atorvastatin as instructed by a doctor. Your doctor will usually recommend a low-cholesterol diet and prescribe the most appropriate dose for you, this is typically 10–40 mg once daily, but could be up to 80 mg once daily. You may start at a lower dose which may be increased over a period of weeks.

Swallow one tablet a day with water. It can be taken with or without food and is usually taken at night. If you forget to take a dose, don’t worry, just take the next dose at the scheduled time. Never take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

Atorvastatin dosage

Atorvastatin is supplied at six different dosages: 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg or 80 mg, taken once daily as instructed by a doctor. Dr Felix supplies atorvastatin as 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg and 80 mg film-coated tablets.

What time of day should you take atorvastatin?

Atorvastatin can be taken at any time of the day, but it’s generally recommended to take it in the evening, as most cholesterol production takes place overnight. 

Can atorvastatin be crushed or split?

Atorvastatin should not be crushed or split and should be swallowed whole with water. It can be taken with or without food. If you struggle to swallow tablets whole, you should discuss this with your doctor - they may be able to find you an alternative.

How long do I need to take atorvastatin for?

The duration of treatment is dependent on the patient and will be determined by your doctor. Most often people remain on atorvastatin for life. On starting, your dosage will typically be reviewed after at least 4 weeks. Your doctor will help you decide when to raise or lower your dose. Never stop taking this medication without first consulting a doctor.

Dietary changes for atorvastatin

Before prescribing atorvastatin, your doctor will likely discuss and recommend a low-fat diet. In some cases, reducing your cholesterol through lifestyle may mean you can avoid taking atorvastatin altogether. Alongside exercising regularly, try cutting saturated fats out of your diet while increasing your intake of fibre, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish. You should also try to cut down on alcohol, and quit smoking if you haven’t already done so.

Whilst using this medication, try and avoid drinking grapefruit juice, as it can increase the concentration of atorvastatin in your system and interfere with the way it works.

Side Effects

Atorvastatin side effects

If you experience either of the following, stop taking this medication and consult a doctor immediately:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, including swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat, difficulty breathing, sudden wheezing, severe rash or itching, high fever
  • Joint pain or inflammation
  • Skin eruptions or inflammation, hives or sudden sensitivity to sunlight
  • Sudden muscle aching, weakness, tenderness or pain
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes, itching, dark-coloured urine or pale-coloured stool
  • Abdominal pain

Common or very common side effects (occur in up to 1 in 10 people)

  • Asthenia (weakness)
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Headache
  • Myalgia (muscle aches)
  • Nausea
  • Sleep disorders
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelets, manifested by easily bruising)
  • Epistaxis (nosebleeds)
  • Hyperglycaemia (increased blood sugar levels)
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Joint disorders
  • Laryngeal (throat) pain
  • Muscle complaints
  • Nasopharyngitis (inflamed nasal passages)

Uncommon

  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Liver disorders
  • Memory loss
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas, manifested by upper abdominal pain)
  • Paraesthesia (numbness)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Skin reactions
  • Vomiting
  • Appetite decreased
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Hypoglycaemia (decreased blood sugar levels)
  • Malaise (tiredness)
  • Peripheral oedema (swelling in the hands or feet)
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Vision disorders
  • Weight gain

Rare or very rare

  • Myopathy (painful muscles)
  • Peripheral neuropathy (sensory symptoms such as tingling or pins and needles)
  • Tendinopathy (painful tendons)

Frequency not known

  • Depression
  • Diabetes mellitus (in those at risk)
  • Interstitial lung disease

Contraindications

Do NOT take atorvastatin if you:

  • Are allergic to any of the ingredients of this medication
  • Have ever had a disease that affects the liver
  • Have or have ever had a blood test demonstrating an abnormal liver function
  • Are or will be at risk of pregnancy (effective contraception is required during treatment and for 1 month afterwards)
  • Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding

Before taking Simvastatin, tell your doctor and take special care if you have:

  • A history of problems with your liver 
  • Thyroid problems
  • Ever had a muscle disorder e.g. myopathy or rhabdomyolysis
  • A family history of muscle disorder
  • A high alcohol intake
  • Kidney problems
  • Diabetes
  • Had a stroke

Drug interactions

Before taking atorvastatin, inform your doctor if you are taking any other medications, including those purchased over the counter without a prescription. 

In particular, tell your doctor if you are taking:

  • Fusidic acid (orally or topically)
  • Glecaprevir with pibrentasvir for the treatment of hepatitis C
  • Medicines used to alter the function of your immune system, such as cyclosporine
  • Antibiotics or antifungal medications, such as erythromycin, clarithromycin, telithromycin, ketoconazole, itraconazole, voriconazole, fluconazole, posaconazole and rifampin
  • Other medications used to regulate lipid levels, such as gemfibrozil, other fibrates or colestipol.
  • Calcium channel blockers used for angina or high blood pressure, such as amlodipine, diltiazem
  • Medication used to regulate your heart rhythm, such as digoxin, verapamil and amiodarone
  • Medicines used in the treatment of HIV, including ritonavir, lopinavir, atazanavir, indinavir, darunavir, and the combination of tipranavir and ritonavir etc.
  • Medications used in the treatment of hepatitis C, such as telaprevir, boceprevir, the combination of elbasvir and grazoprevir.
  • Medicines containing St John’s Wort
  • Warfarin (reduces blood clotting)
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Stiripentol (anti-convulsant)
  • Cimetidine (for heartburn and peptic ulcers)
  • Phenazone (painkiller)
  • Colchicine (used to treat gout)
  • Antacids (for indigestion)

How to cope with atorvastatin side effects?

Like all medications, atorvastatin can cause side effects in some patients, the most common being muscle pain or cramps. For this reason, your doctor will prescribe a low dose, to begin with, and gradually increase it if necessary. If you are experiencing side effects, try and keep track of them and report them to your doctor.

For the relief of muscle cramps, doctors recommended daily stretching exercises, compression stockings, avoiding high-heeled shoes and keeping your arm and leg muscles warm. If side effects do not improve over time, speak to your doctor for advice.

Will atorvastatin reduce my fertility?

There is no evidence to suggest that atorvastatin affects fertility in men or women. However, if you are trying to get pregnant, speak to your doctor for advice before taking this medication.

Can I eat grapefruit when taking atorvastatin?

While using this medication, you should drink no more than 2 small glasses of grapefruit juice per day. Grapefruit juice can increase the concentration of this medication and alter the way it works.

Will atorvastatin affect my contraception?

Atorvastatin will not prevent your contraception from working. However, it may increase the release of hormones from some contraceptive pills, increasing the likelihood of experiencing side effects. Speak to our doctor or pharmacist for advice if you are worried about side effects.

Atorvastatin and alcohol

You should limit the amount of alcohol you drink whilst using this medication.

Treatment Options

Lipitor vs atorvastatin

Lipitor is simply a brand name of atorvastatin. The active ingredients are the same in both Lipitor and generic versions of atorvastatin, so the effects should be the same. However, some people do report different side effects from branded medications.

Atorvastatin vs other statins

There are five statins prescribed in the UK: atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), pravastatin (Lipostat), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor). The main difference between statins is the amount they lower your cholesterol. Low-intensity statins (fluvastatin, pravastatin, simvastatin) are sufficient for lowering the cholesterol of most patients, but if a doctor feels that a higher dose is appropriate, they may prescribe a high-intensity statin (atorvastatin or rosuvastatin) instead.

Different types of statin can have different side effects in different people. If you suffer from side effects while taking one variant, your doctor may try prescribing you another statin for better results.

How to switch high cholesterol medication?

Atorvastatin is a prescription medication and must only be taken following consultation with a doctor. Your doctor will usually recommend a low-cholesterol diet and start with a low dose of atorvastatin (usually 10 mg once daily), which may be increased if necessary. 

Lifestyle changes to reduce your cholesterol

The best way to reduce the amount of LDL in your blood is by making changes to your lifestyle. Exercising regularly is extremely beneficial for lowering cholesterol and improving your general wellbeing. You should also try to cut down on foods that are high in saturated fats, including fatty cuts of meat and processed meats, butter and lard, cream and ice cream, cheese (particularly hard cheese), cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and products containing coconut or palm oil.

If you are overweight, the best way to reduce your cholesterol is to lose weight healthily, and your doctor will be able to provide you with a weight-loss plan. You should also try to cut down on alcohol and, if you haven’t already done so, quit smoking.

How can you control bad cholesterol?

Although high levels of “good cholesterol” are beneficial, high levels of “bad cholesterol” are dangerous and can lead to serious health problems such as a stroke or heart attack. It is, therefore, necessary to reduce this cholesterol, which can sometimes be achieved through changes to diet and exercise alone. When this does not effectively reduce levels of “bad cholesterol”, medication such as atorvastatin may be indicated to lower cholesterol.

Who makes atorvastatin?

Atorvastatin is made by several different companies. The branded variant, Lipitor, is made by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, while the generic brand is made by companies including Mylan and Accord. While the generic and branded variations of this medication are identical, patients may find they experience different side effects with different brands. Dr Felix will always try and source your preferred brand if you have one, just drop us an email to let us know.

Q&A

How to tell if atorvastatin is working?

The effectiveness of atorvastatin is related to the lifestyle of the patient, so it is important to maintain a low-fat diet whilst taking this medication. You will not be able to physically feel the effects of atorvastatin, but your doctor may choose to conduct blood tests to monitor your cholesterol levels during treatment.

How much will atorvastatin lower cholesterol?

The effectiveness of atorvastatin is dependent upon the patient’s initial cholesterol levels, individual physiology and lifestyle. Your doctor will be able to determine the right dosage for you. When accompanied by the appropriate lifestyle changes, atorvastatin is an effective means of lowering cholesterol in the long term.

How long will I have to take atorvastatin for?

The duration of your treatment depends on your cholesterol levels, lifestyle, and whether your doctor deems you to be at risk of heart disease. The best way to reduce the risk of heart disease is to improve your lifestyle by eating healthily, exercising regularly and losing weight. Some people remain on atorvastatin for life.

Is atorvastatin a cure?

Atorvastatin is a treatment for high cholesterol, used to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attack or stroke. It is not a cure for high cholesterol and is only effective if accompanied by the appropriate lifestyle changes i.e. losing weight, eating a low-fat diet and exercising regularly.

Is atorvastatin addictive?

There is no evidence that atorvastatin is addictive.

Are statins safe?

Statins are powerful drugs, and your course of treatment will be monitored by a doctor. Statins are one of the most studied medicines currently in use and are deemed to be effective and safe. Doctors only prescribe medications after weighing up the benefits versus the risks. If you are prescribed statins, it will be because the potential risk of taking the treatment would be less than the risk of not taking them. 

Is atorvastatin safe for long term use?

Atorvastatin is prescribed as a long-term treatment and works best if taken over many years. Never stop taking this medication without first consulting your doctor.

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