Lipitor® is the brand name of a prescription medication used to lower cholesterol, with the generic name atorvastatin calcium. It is categorized as a statin or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor, which is a category of drugs used to block a specific cholesterol-producing liver enzyme. This medication is prescribed in conjunction with a weight loss plan involving a low-fat diet and changes to exercise regimens.
The drug Lipitor® is offered in tablet form. It is taken once daily by mouth, with or without food, as desired by the individual. Individuals are urged not to alter the medication schedule without consulting a doctor. Taking a double dose of this drug could cause serious or life-threatening side effects. People taking Lipitor® should avoid consuming more than a quart of grapefruit juice per day due to possible interference with the medication.
Lipitor® is not safe for pregnancy or breastfeeding. It should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or by women who might become pregnant, because this drug can cause birth defects and might be harmful to a nursing baby. It is also not recommended for individuals who drink more than two alcoholic beverages per day or who have certain conditions such as thyroid disorder or kidney disease. A person using this medication should alert professionals before undergoing surgery or certain dental procedures.
Potential side effects of statin medications can range from mild to serious. Symptoms of a serious reaction to the drug could include fever, lethargy, and pain or weakness of the muscles. More common side effects are gastrointestinal problems, joint pain, or headache, among others.
As with many prescription medications, this drug has the potential for serious drug interactions with other prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or supplements. In particular, Lipitor® might interact dangerously with some types of antibiotics, including Biaxin® (generic name clarithromycin) and Erythrocin® (erythromycin). Other known interactions include medications containing niacin, immunity-lowering drugs such as steroids, certain antifungal drugs like Diflucan® and Ketozole®; and some HIV medications, including Invirase®. Additional brand names that are believed to cause drug interactions are Cardizem®, Fibrocor®, and Tricor®.
In an individual with high cholesterol, the fatty cholesterol accumulates on the walls of blood vessels and decreases the flow of blood to the heart. This condition is believed to be the precursor to medical conditions such as stroke and heart disease. Approximately 80 percent of individuals who undergo a heart attack also have high cholesterol levels.