What is Lipitor?
Lipitor (often also known by its generic name of Atorvastatin) is a ‘statin’ drug. Statins are used to inhibit the activities of an enzyme in your liver (HMG Coenzyme A reductase) which produces certain types of cholesterol.
How does Lipitor work?
Your body produces various types of cholesterol (fat) - some have positive effects and some have negative effects. Lipitor has a two-fold effect in that it will reduce the negative cholesterols such as LDL but it can also boost positive cholesterols such as HDL. LDL, for example, can increase incidences of heart disease as it goes to your arteries where it can block them up. HDL actually counteracts this effect. So, Lipitor works to lower the risk of clogged and narrowed arteries.
What conditions is Lipitor used for?
Lipitor can be used for a variety of conditions - it is often used by individuals who have not been able to lower their levels of cholesterol by standard methods (i.e. through their diet) and who are therefore deemed to be of high risk of certain diseases/conditions. For example, it can help minimise the risks of:
How is Lipitor taken?
Your doctor will monitor your Lipitor intake depending on your individual health/lifestyle situation. Most people will be given a low dosage to start off with. Over time cholesterol levels will be monitored and the dosage may then be upped until the levels come within the right range. Your cholesterol (and liver) will be checked regularly whilst you take the medication as well.
Generally you will only need to take one dose a day (in tablet form) with water and it is usually recommended that you take your dose at a regular time towards the end of the day (i.e. with your meal in the evenings). Most of the cholesterol that your body produces will be made at night which is why the drug is taken late in the day. Lipitor is usually prescribed for long-term use so it is important not to stop taking the medication unless your doctor agrees to this.
You should store your Lipitor away from heat or moisture at room temperature.
What if I forget to take a dose?
If you remember within a few hours of your missed dose then take it then. If you do not remember until the next day when you are about to take your next dose then forget about the one you missed. Do not double up the dose. If you take (or think you have taken) too many Lipitor tablets then treat this as a medical emergency.
Do I need to change my diet?
If you have high cholesterol levels then your doctor will also probably talk to you about your diet (and exercise regime) before/when he or she prescribes Lipitor for you in any case. To maximise the effects here you should try to maintain a diet that is low in fat and cholesterol so avoid saturated fats, eat five portions of fruit/vegetables a day, get plenty of fibre and try and eat one or two portions of oily fish a week. Bear in mind that grapefruit/grapefruit juice may not react well with this medication as it does, in itself raise your lipitor levels. If you regularly eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice then tell your doctor this to check if it is OK to continue.
You should also be extremely careful about your alcohol intake with Lipitor. If you do drink alcohol then tell your doctor and find out what safe limits are. Combining alcohol and this kind of statin medication can be harmful to your liver.
When shouldn’t Lipitor be taken?
Your doctor will look at your medical history/health before prescribing Lipitor as there are situations when it should not be taken at all or when its prescription may need extra monitoring. These situations include:
Liver disease and/or liver problems
A history of heavy drinking/alcoholism
Certain muscular diseases
Certain blood diseases
Situations where major surgery is on the cards
People over 70 years of age
A decrease in kidney functionality
Existing hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid condition)
Hereditary muscle conditions/a pre-tendency to side effects on the muscular system with a different statin prescription.
A recent stroke that was a result of bleeding in the brain
Lipitor will not be prescribed if you are pregnant as it may cause birth defects. It is also important therefore that you inform your doctor if you are trying to get pregnant or if there is a chance that you will get pregnant. You may also find that your doctor will not prescribe the medication if you are breast feeding. Lipitor is not generally given to children under 10.
Does Lipitor have any side effects?
There are some side effects of varying degrees of severity that you may experience with Lipitor. In a few scenarios people have suffered from liver and muscle disorders whilst on the drug.
If you experience the following side effects then you may need to stop taking your doses and contact your doctor/hospital immediately.
Hepatitis (i.e. feeling like you have flu with a raised temperature and the signs of jaundice such as yellowing of the eyes and/or skin)
Muscle pain and/or the feeling of weak muscles that doesn’t have an obvious cause
A feeling of unwarranted fatigue
Bowel movements that are pale and/or urine that is dark in colour and/or decreases in volume
An obvious allergic reaction such as swelling of the tongue and lips, breathing difficulties and/or hives.
Some side effects are less severe - If these problems occur then talk to your doctor as soon as you can (but don’t stop the treatment).
Feelings of nausea/being sick
I am taking other medicines - can I still take Lipitor?
You need to make sure that your doctor knows exactly what kind of treatments (including herbal/alternative remedies) you are currently taking before he/she can prescribe Lipitor as some problems can occur when you mix medicines. For example, medications (such as antidepressants, antibiotics, immuno-suppressants and anti-fungal and anti-viral drugs) may boost the chances of muscle problems with Lipitor. And, certain antibiotics may have an effect on how Lipitor works in your body. You also need to let your doctor know if you are taking any form of birth control pill or product.