- Lipitor lowers “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides, while boosting “good” cholesterol (HDL)
- Lipitor is the most sold prescription drug in the US
- Lipitor is not for pregnant women, those intending to become pregnant, or people with kidney or liver issues
- Tolerable reactions include heartburn, muscle weakness, queasiness, and diarrhea
- More serious side effects include muscle breakdown, inflammation, and abdominal pain
Lipitor (atorvastatin) is part of a class of drugs knows as statins (or HMG CoA reductase inhibitors). Atorvastatin is a drug that is taken to treat hyperlipidemia, an abnormally high concentration of fats or lipids in the blood. In simpler terms, atorvastatin lowers the concentrations of “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) and triglycerides, while boosting levels of “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL).
Through lowering high levels of cholesterol, Lipitor also reduces the risk factors that are commonly associated with all types of vascular and heart disease, as well as complications that high cholesterol can give to people with type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular problems.
Children age 10 and older and adults can be prescribed this drug for the treatment of high cholesterol and triglycerides, but individuals with liver disease, pregnant women, women planning to get pregnant, as well as women who are breast-feeding should abstain from taking atorvastatin include.
In addition, atorvastatin can cause complications which create failure in skeletal muscle tissue, leading to a breakdown in kidney function. Check with your health care provider urgently if you experience unusual muscle weakness or pain, especially when these come in conjunction with high fever, unfamiliar fatigue, or dark-colored urine.
For Lipitor to be most effective in treating high levels of cholesterol, it is advisable to take this drug in conjunction with exercise, good hydration, weight control, and a cholesterol-lowering diet that is low in fat or cholesterol.
There are some studies that suggest a relationship between Statins and Dementia. Statins include drugs like Crestor (rosuvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Livalo (pitavastatin), and Zocor (simavastatin). However, no direct relationship has been proven and more studies must be conducted by researchers.
The most recent study was published in 2014 in the Public Library of Science (PLOS). The study involved approximately 16,000 Taiwanese patients with type 2 diabetes who were new to statins, up against 2,400 Taiwanese diabetic patients who had been on statins. It must be noted that individuals with type 2 diabetes are already at high risk for Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
The research revealed that people on statins like Lipitor or Crestor had a 25% lesser chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s dementia, but did not have similar effects on other types of dementia. Was that the long-awaited breakthrough? Not so fast, say other researchers on Alzheimer’s disease.
Another study involved more than 5,000 persons in their seventies and early eighties. They were split up into a group that was given a statin by the generic name of pravastatin (brand name Pravachol), while the other group received a placebo (a substance with no active therapeutic effect.) After years monitoring both groups, the researchers concluded that there was no significant effect on cognitive function in the group that received the statin.
In yet another larger study involving more than 20,000 persons who were split up between a placebo group and another group that was on simvastatin (brand-name Zocor, among others.) After another long monitoring period, the same result was reached: both groups displayed the same propensity for developing dementia.
The Negative Side of Statins
Some researchers discovered that patients taking statins developed memory loss that was linked to statin usage, although it did not occur to everyone taking statins. In a 2010 study of 600 people taking Lipitor, memory loss was identified. Despite that, a precise association between Lipitor and memory loss, i.e. a cause-and-effect relationship, has yet to be confirmed. That is the reason why physicians routinely inquire about other underlying conditions that may affect memory, for example age, heart disease, and even pre-diagnosis Alzheimer’s.
The Positive Side of Statins
According to research studies conducted by Dr. Tin-Tse Lin of Taiwan and presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, high doses of statins prevent dementia in older individuals. The large study was conducted on 58,000 people, and the final evidence was that high potency statins provided the strongest protection against dementia.
In summation, research about the relationship between statins and dementia is ongoing. Until definite conclusions can be made, physicians will follow other paths in their attempt towards preventing memory loss and other symptoms of dementia in older populations.
- Studies have revealed that treatment with atorvastatin drugs is linked to significant reductions in vascular issues of the heart. Lipitor treatment is also effective in diabetic patients, especially patients with type 2 diabetes.
- Lipitor must be taken once a day at anytime, and doses vary from a low dose of 10mg to a high dose of 80mg a day. The most common prescriptions are for dosages of either 10 or 20 mg a day, although it is often prescribed at a dose of 40 mg based on the patient’s overall health.
- Dosage adjustments are typically made by a health care provider at intervals of 2 to 4 weeks. Never change dosage of this medication without prior consultation with your doctor.
- Lipitor is not approved for use with children who are younger than 10 years-old. For those ages 10 to 17, the pediatric dose is 10 to 20 mgs a day, and a maximum dosage of 20 mgs a day, with adjustments at 4 weeks.
- If you realize that you have missed taking a dose, take one, unless the next time you are due to take your medication again is less than 12 hours away.
Avoid taking atorvastatin if you have experienced liver complications or are pregnant, intend to become pregnant, or if you are breast-feeding. Furthermore, make sure that you inform your doctor that you might have:
- A high and regular consumption of alcohol
- A thyroid problem
- History of kidney disease or current kidney problems that can show as shortness of breath or fatigue, muscle tenderness or pain, or difficult or painful urinating
- Liver problems that can show as gastrointestinal problems, itching, tiredness, nausea, weight changes, urine that is dark, and jaundiced or yellowish skin and eyelids
- Signs of a stroke, which can show as sudden severe headache, slurred speech, problems with vision or balance, one side of the body feeling suddenly weak or numb, or other unusual changes in your health
When on a Lipitor regimen, avoid eating grapefruit, for it can have adverse effects due to its’ reactions with atorvastatin. The same goes for excess alcohol consumption, for alcohol can cause injury to the liver and raise triglyceride levels.
In addition, when taking atorvastatin, older adults and individuals who have kidney disease or poorly controlled hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) may have complications that can produce a failure of skeletal muscle tissue, leading to a breakdown in kidney function.
Less Severe Side Effects of Atorvastatin include:
- Muscle Weakness
- Lower Back or Side Pain
- Pain or Tenderness Around the Eyes and Cheekbones
Side effects that should be promptly reported to a physician include:
- Hemorrhagic Stroke
- Deterioration or Gradual Loss of Muscle
- Muscle Breakdown (rhabdomyolysis)
- Inflammation, Pain with Swelling of the Joints (Arthralgia)
- Abdominal or Stomach Pain
- Back Pain
- Belching or Excessive Gas
- Heartburn, Indigestion, or Stomach Discomfort
- Loss of Appetite, Vomiting
- Increased Thirst or Hunger
Other unusual and sudden health issues:
- Confusion, or Memory Problems
- Fever, Drowsiness, and Loss of Appetite
- General Feeling of Discomfort or Illness
- Dark Urine
- Jaundice, i.e. yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Runny or Stuffy Nose, Sneezing, Coughing, Sore or Scratchy Throat (nasopharyngitis)
- Sleep Disturbance and Insomnia
Less known incidence:
- continuing ringing or buzzing or other unexplained noise in the ears
- menstrual bleeding occurring earlier or lasting longer than usual
- black, tarry stools
- bloody nose
- bloody or cloudy urine
- blurred vision
- difficult, burning, or painful urination
- difficulty seeing at night
- excessive muscle tone or tension
- groin or scrotum pain
- increased body movements
- increased sensitivity of the eyes to light
- increased sensitivity to touch or pain
- increased urination
- loss of sexual ability, drive, or desire
- depression, nervousness, nightmares, paranoia
- pinpoint red spots on the skin
- slurred speech
- swollen or tender lymph glands in the neck, armpit, or groin
- unable to move or feel face
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat,
- hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
- red skin lesions, often with a purple center sore
- red, irritated eyes
- sore throat
- sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
Lipitor and Alcohol:
Excessive alcohol consumption can boost triglyceride levels and may cause harm to the liver; conserve your health by drinking in moderation when taking Lipitor.
Atorvastatin and Grapefruit:
When taking atorvastatin, you need to abstain from eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice, as these may boost levels of the drug to hazardous intensities in your system.
Atorvastatin and Drug Interactions:
There are numerous medications that interact with atorvastatin.
- Many antacids
- Several antibiotics (for example, clarithromycin or erythromycin)
- Diltiazem (Cardizem, Cartia, Dilacor, and others)
- Oral contraceptives
- Antifungal medicines (such as fluconazole, itraconazole, ketoconazole, or voriconazole)
- HIV medications (such as darunavir, fosamprenavir, ritonavir, and various others)
- Medicines that contain niacin (for example Advicor, Niaspan, Niacor, and various others)
- Drugs that weaken your immune system (such as steroids, cancer medicine and others)
- Medicines used to prevent organ transplant rejection (such as sirolimus, tacrolimus and others
Here is some information that could be of interest to anyone on a Lipitor regimen or discussing taking Lipitor with their health care provider:
Atorvastatin and weight gain:
Patients often ask about Lipitor in connection with weight gain. There is nothing in the medical literature on this subject. While on this medication, you should exercise and maintain a healthy diet to prevent gaining weight. Be alert to the possibility that recent changes in your weight are not resulting from some other coexisting health-related condition.
Lipitor and muscle pain and tenderness:
One of the more serious, though infrequent, Lipitor byproducts includes weakness or tenderness in muscle groups. If you look after a patient who experiences such symptoms, you should not procrastinate. Instead, consult with your patient’s physician before this condition gets worse.
Atorvastatin and anxiety:
The prescribing information that is readily available for Lipitor has nothing about anxiety resulting from someone taking Lipitor. If you feel stressed out or having anxiety attacks while on a regimen of Lipitor, your doctor will once again be able to tell you if this is being caused by another coexisting condition, or he or she may lower your dosage of the drug.
Lipitor and grapefruit:
Lipitor (atorvastatin) has an adverse interaction with grapefruit juice, the effects of that combination lasting up to 24 hours or more after consuming grapefruit. In that interaction, grapefruit and its juice may lead to potentially hazardous effects.
Lipitor and Vitamins:
According to the information that the Lipitor manufacturer provides on the package, Lipitor does not react adversely with vitamins or herbal supplements. Any unusual physical or mental changes should however be promptly discussed with your doctor.
Lipitor and Memory:
There is conflicting evidence about the relation of Lipitor to memory loss, in particular, and Alzheimer’s or dementia in general. It has not been proven whether the memory loss that is occasionally observed in older people is caused by the Lipitor that they are taking or by other causes such as the aging process, cardiovascular issues that may be causing the beginnings of vascular dementia, or other reasons already present in as yet undiagnosed dementia. Let your physician guide you on this, as per the latest research.
Lipitor and Alzheimer’s – The story of Betty and her mother
My name is John and I worked at a home care agency for 25 years. A client named Betty called me one day and said she needed a caregiver for her 69-year old mother who had mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease. When I went to their home to do a needs assessment, I witnessed a loving environment with Betty’s mother looking as cheerful and physically healthy as could be. In my own thoughts, I wished all our other patients with Alzheimer’s at the agency had that disposition and demeanor.
At any rate, Betty’s mother was beginning to have memory issues. For example, she repeated, during my 45-minute visit, the same question she asked me three times. “Are you one of our relatives?” she asked, to which I gave her the same answer each time. Betty mentioned that her Mom was taking a daily dose of 20 mgs of Lipitor for high cholesterol, and she wanted to know if I knew much about the relation of Lipitor to memory. When I told her that I’d read mixed reports on the subject, she perked up and told me that she could swear that in the four months that her mom had been taking Lipitor, her memory had improved.
I was a little skeptical about that, particularly in view of the same question that her mother had asked me three times, as well as the fact that in my many years helping people with elderly folks navigate the middle stages of Alzheimer’s, I had never come across someone whose memory had improved as a result of being on statin medications.
But I kept an open mind and asked Betty how she came to the conclusion that her mom’s memory and other cognitive function had improved over the last few months. Betty mentioned two instances in which she had observed improvements in her mother’s memory -as well as in her mother’s handling of activities of daily living. For example, she recounted, although her mom had asked me the same thing three times, a couple of months earlier she might have asked the same question repeatedly all day long. Another instance had to do with her mother getting dressed. A little while ago, Betty said, she had to lay out the clothes she wanted her mother to wear on her mother’s bed, and then give her mom a string of cues to get her to get dressed on her own. More recently however, Betty went on to say, all she had to do was lay the clothes on the bed, and her mom would do the rest all by herself.
That stopped me in my tracks, for Betty was not the type to fabricate stories like that. I determined to do some further research on the subject. And that, unfortunately, frustrated me no end, for it simply confirmed what I had already known, that gerontologists and other “in the know” academicians were still undecided on the subject. All that the research revealed was that more research was needed.
Personal observation was an overriding factor however, so I determined to keep an eye on Betty’s mother. When I introduced the caregiver that Betty sought to her and her mother, I made a point, with Betty’s indulgence, to spend a little over an hour and watch Betty’s mom do some things around the house. To me, she seemed quite typical of someone with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, except for a really remarkably cheerful disposition, which was an uplifting factor for Betty and the new caregiver I had brought in. Again, she asked Hilda, her new caregiver, the same question about four times in the little time I was there, which did not augur well for what Betty had said.
Anyway, cutting a long story short, I visited again a month or so later, and one more time about two months after that,and all I could say was that the jury was still out, in that I really had no way to establish whether Betty’s mom had made any improvements while still taking the statin. Like the researchers I had read about, I guessed they truly did need to conduct further studies on the subject.
Lipitor is for lowering high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. If you are concerned about its possible impact on memory and other cognitive function, the information out there is regrettably lacking in finality. The best thing you can do is to allow your primary care physician to guide you based on your medical history and signs and symptoms that he or she discovers during an examination.