Atorvastatin is a drug used to treat hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol. The two main factors which affect the atorvastatin dose are the baseline cholesterol level and the response of the patient to treatment. This is measured by monitoring the cholesterol levels in the blood at baseline and then at regular intervals after starting treatment.
High cholesterol is one of the most common clinical conditions worldwide and, if left untreated, can have serious consequences such as heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol is an essential substance in the body, used to build cells but, in excess, it can lead to atherosclerosis or narrowing of the blood vessels due to build up of plaque. Hypercholesterolemia may be genetic, or due to poor diets high in fat. Some other diseases, such as diabetes and alcoholism may also increase the risk of raised cholesterol.
The first step to lowering cholesterol is making lifestyle changes. These include changing the diet by decreasing the intake of saturated fats and foods high in cholesterol such as red meat and cheese. Weight loss, increased exercise, stopping smoking and decreasing alcohol intake and stress are also important lifestyle changes. If, however, a change in diet is not sufficient to lower cholesterol levels, medication, such as atorvastatin, may be necessary.
Atorvastatin belongs to a class of drugs called HMG CoA-reductase inhibitors, or statins. They work by blocking HMG CoA-reductase, which is an enzyme responsible for producing cholesterol in the liver. Atorvastatin is known by different trade names in different countries according to manufacturer. It is usually available by prescription only, as a doctor needs to be involved to determine the sufficient atorvastatin dose on a case-by-case basis.
The initial atorvastatin dose is determined by the baseline cholesterol level. If it is very high, a higher atorvastatin dose may be given. Regular monitoring of the cholesterol levels is done to determine each patient's response. If it is insufficient, the atorvastatin dose may be increased. Alternatively, if the resultant cholesterol level is very low, the dose may be decreased.
The normal atorvastatin dose may range from 10 mg to 80 mg daily and the prescribed dose should always be taken. As with any medication, atorvastatin may interact with other medications so these, including over-the-counter, complementary or homeopathic medicines, should be discussed with the prescribing doctor. Pregnancy, desired pregnancy and lactation should also be discussed.
Some people may experience side effects with atorvastatin. These may include muscle pains and gastrointestinal side effects. Should any adverse effects occur, they should be discussed with the prescribing doctor. The atorvastatin dose may be lowered or the drug stopped if adverse effects occur.