Side effects of lipitor

June 9, 2006 – Lawsuits filed this week claim that drug-maker Pfizer has failed to warn doctors and patients about serious possible side effects of the cholesterol-lowering drug.

The two lawsuits claim that Lipitor caused lasting, debilitating muscle and nerve problems — including memory loss. Mark Jay Krum, a lawyer based in New York and Philadelphia, last Wednesday filed the suits in New York State Supreme Court on behalf of patients in New York and Atlanta.

Charles M. Wilson, a 60-year-old Atlanta man, says taking Lipitor damaged his nervous system. Three years after he stopped taking Lipitor, the suit says, his feet and hands burn, his balance is lost, and he suffers bouts of fatigueand memory loss.

The suit filed by Michael Mazzariello, a 47-year-old New Yorker, says his use of statins — the family of cholesterol-lowering drugs to which Lipitor belongs — left him with debilitating muscle damage and extensive memory loss.

“The complaint alleges that Pfizer promoted Lipitor as a safe drug with minimal health risks while failing to warn doctors and patients about Lipitor’s more dangerous side effects,” Krum tells WebMD. “No one is saying Lipitor does not work in reducing cholesterol. In most people it may be safe. But there are side effects such as those in the complaints filed on June 7. People are entitled to know.”

With annual sales of about $12 billion, Lipitor is the world’s best-selling medicine. It’s the most popular of the cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins. Other statins include Zocor, Crestor, Mevacor, Pravachol, and Lescol. A statin drug called Baycol was removed from the market in 2001 because it caused far more cases of muscle damage than other members of its class.

Pfizer is a WebMD sponsor.

Atorvastatin Side Effects

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 24, 2018.

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In Summary

Commonly reported side effects of atorvastatin include: hemorrhagic stroke, arthralgia, diarrhea, and nasopharyngitis. Other side effects include: urinary tract infection, insomnia, limb pain, muscle spasm, musculoskeletal pain, myalgia, and nausea. See below for a comprehensive list of adverse effects.

For the Consumer

Applies to atorvastatin: oral tablet

Along with its needed effects, atorvastatin may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking atorvastatin:

Less common or rare

  • Cough
  • difficulty with swallowing
  • dizziness
  • fast heartbeat
  • fever
  • hives
  • itching
  • muscle cramps, pain, stiffness, swelling, or weakness
  • puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • skin rash
  • tightness in the chest
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • wheezing

Incidence not known

  • Blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  • chills
  • dark-colored urine
  • diarrhea
  • joint pain
  • 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

Some side effects of atorvastatin may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common

  • Headache
  • hoarseness
  • lower back or side pain
  • pain or tenderness around the eyes and cheekbones
  • painful or difficult urination
  • stuffy or runny nose

Less common

  • Abdominal or stomach pain
  • back pain
  • belching or excessive gas
  • constipation
  • general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • heartburn, indigestion, or stomach discomfort
  • lack or loss of strength
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • shivering
  • sweating
  • trouble sleeping
  • vomiting

Incidence not known

  • Appetite increased
  • black, tarry stools
  • bloody nose
  • bloody or cloudy urine
  • blurred vision
  • continuing ringing or buzzing or other unexplained noise in the ears
  • difficult, burning, or painful urination
  • difficulty seeing at night
  • excessive muscle tone or tension
  • fruit-like breath odor
  • groin or scrotum pain
  • inability to have or keep an erection
  • increased body movements
  • increased sensitivity of the eyes to light
  • increased sensitivity to touch or pain
  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • loss of bladder control
  • loss of sexual ability, drive, or desire
  • menstrual bleeding occurring earlier or lasting longer than usual
  • mental depression
  • nervousness
  • nightmares
  • pale skin
  • 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
  • weight loss

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to atorvastatin: oral tablet


The most frequently reported side effects were nasopharyngitis, arthralgia, diarrhea, pain in extremity, and urinary tract infection.


Very common (10% or more): Diarrhea (up to 14.1%)

Common (1% to 10%): Dyspepsia, nausea, flatulence, constipation

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Abdominal discomfort, eructation, abdominal pain, vomiting, pancreatitis


Common (1% to 10%): Blood bilirubin increased, ALT increased, transaminases/hepatic enzymes increased, AST increased, liver function test abnormal, blood alkaline phosphatase increased

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Hepatitis

Rare (0.01% to 0.1%): Cholestasis

Very rare (less than 0.1%): Fatal hepatic failure, nonfatal hepatic failure


Very common (10% or more): Arthralgia (up to 11.7%)

Common (1% to 10%): Pain in extremity, musculoskeletal pain, muscle spasms, myalgia, joint swelling, back pain, creatine phosphokinase increased

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Neck pain, muscle fatigue

Rare (less than 0.1%): Myositis, myopathy, rhabdomyolysis, tendinopathy

Frequency not reported: Immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy

Postmarketing reports: Tendon rupture


Rare (less than 0.1%): Thrombocytopenia

Nervous system

Common (1% to 10%): Headache

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Paresthesia, dizziness, hypoesthesia, dysgeusia, amnesia

Rare (less than 0.1%): Peripheral neuropathy

Frequency not reported: Nonfatal hemorrhagic stroke

Postmarketing reports: Cognitive impairment, memory loss, forgetfulness, memory impairment


Very rare (less than 0.01%): Gynecomastia


Common (1% to 10%): Allergic reactions

Rare (less than 0.1%): Anaphylaxis, hypersensitivity reaction


Common (1% to 10%): Insomnia

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Nightmare

Postmarketing reports: Confusion, depression


Common (1% to 10%): Urinary tract infection

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): White blood cells urine positive, erectile dysfunction


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Rash, pruritus, urticaria, alopecia

Rare (less than 0.1%): Angioneurotic edema/angioedema, bullous rashes, erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis

Frequency not reported: Urticaria


Common (1% to 10%): Cardiovascular death


Very common (10% or more): Nasopharyngitis (up to 12.9%)

Common (1% to 10%): Pharyngolaryngeal pain, epistaxis

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Asthma

Rare (less than 0.1%): Sinusitis, pharyngitis

Frequency not reported: Interstitial lung disease


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Vision blurred

Rare (less than 0.1%): Visual disturbance


Common (1% to 10%): Non-cardiovascular death

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Deafness, tinnitus, malaise, asthenia, influenza, infection, chest pain, peripheral edema, fatigue, pyrexia

Rare (0.01% to 0.1%): Injury

Very rare (less than 0.01%): Hearing loss


Common (1% to 10%): Hyperglycemia

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Anorexia, hypoglycemia, weight increased

Frequency not reported: Diabetes mellitus

1. Cerner Multum, Inc. “Australian Product Information.” O 0

2. Cerner Multum, Inc. “UK Summary of Product Characteristics.” O 0

3. “Product Information. Lipitor (atorvastatin).” Parke-Davis, Morris Plains, NJ.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.

Related questions

  • How long does atorvastatin stay in the system after stopping the drug?
  • What are the side effects of statins?

Medical Disclaimer

More about atorvastatin

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Consumer resources

  • Atorvastatin
  • Atorvastatin (Advanced Reading)

Other brands: Lipitor

Professional resources

  • Atorvastatin Calcium (AHFS Monograph)
  • … +2 more

Related treatment guides

  • High Cholesterol
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia
  • High Cholesterol, Familial Heterozygous
  • High Cholesterol, Familial Homozygous
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Remedies & Alternatives to Lipitor and Constipation!

< Previous 4 | 7

If you are taking Lipitor and constipation has become a problem for you, you may find it a bit comforting to learn that you are not alone.

Doctors prescribe Lipitor to patients who have high cholesterol. Below you will find more about Lipitor and constipation, but more importantly you will find at least 2 alternatives to both lipitir and constipation.

Lipitor and Constipation Explained

The pharmaceutical company Pfizer manufactures Lipitor, which is a type of statin drug developed to help you lower your cholesterol. Lipitor works by disrupting the production of cholesterol in your liver.

When your body makes less cholesterol there is a lower risk of plaque build up in your arteries and a reduced risk of heart disease. Health professionals define constipation as hard and infrequent bowel movements.

Your doctor will diagnose constipation when you have fewer than three bowel movements a week. You will also notice that stool is dry and difficult to eliminate.

The Common Issue of Lipitor and Constipation

Many patients report a connection between Lipitor and constipation. The official Lipitor website lists this as a common side effect of taking the drug. You will also find many cholesterol forums that link Lipitor and constipation together.

Some patients notice their symptoms of constipation start soon after beginning the medication. Others do not experience constipation until a few months after their first dose of Lipitor. Your doctor will need to work closely with you to find the right dosage.

Lipitor and Constipation – Keep Your Doctor Informed

Although some people tolerate statin drugs such as Lipitor with few side effects, others suffer from frustrating side effects like muscle aches, sick feeling or nausea, diarrhea, or constipation. You should also be aware of more serious side effects of Lipitor such as damage to your liver and muscles.

You need to take an active role in your health by learning about the connection between Lipitor and constipation as well as the effects statins can have on the organs and systems of your body.

Lipitor (Atorvastatin) may lead to many unexpected side effects. Communicate with your medical doctor if you experience any unusual health issues while taking Lipitor. (1)

When you meet with your doctor tell him or her if you have a history of liver problems or kidney disorders.

You should make a list of other prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking as well as nutritional supplements you are taking and share this list with your doctor to reveal any possible detrimental drug interactions.

Remedies For Lipitor and Constipation

While I should say that you never discontinue using prescription medications of any kind without first consulting with your doctor – the opposite (with a twist) is true:

You should never start on a drug without doing your own research. My doctor wanted to put me on Lipitor 3 years ago, just because my cholesterol was a bit high.

But I did not do so. I tried various ways and finally found a good supplement that helped lower my cholesterol by 58 points in 2 months.

So if your doctor still keeps you on the medication, you can take action step to alleviate the constipation you are experiencing.

Eat a diet high in fiber by including more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your daily eating schedule. You can also help your digestive track eliminate waste more efficiently by drinking plenty of water.

Aim to drink at least eight full glasses of water each day. Daily physical exercise will also help move wastes through your system.

Speak with your doctor and do your research before taking over-the-counter stool softeners or constipation remedies to ensure these products do not interfere with your medications.

Lipitor can help lower your cholesterol, but you can also make significant changes in your cholesterol profile through simple healthy lifestyle adjustments.

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7 Supplements That Interact With Lipitor

To Your Health
March, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 03)
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And Why You Should Be Talking to Your Doctor About Any Drugs and Supplements You’re Taking

By Drs. Todd Mexico and Brandon Blood

According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) nearly 50 percent of Americans are currently taking prescription drugs. This number is likely not a surprise to anyone reading this article; just consider how many drug commercials you see on TV every night. Despite the growth of alternative medicine, particularly in the past several decades, the “a pill for every ill” concept is alive and well in our society.

Medications by their very nature impact the delicate biochemical orchestra that takes place in our bodies. These medications obviously are intended to improve the function of a given system, but we all know that medications have negative side effects as well. Since many people also take one or more nutritional supplements (particularly multivitamins), it’s also important to recognize that many medications interact both positively and negatively with supplements. Whether you’re taking medication, nutritional supplements, both, or neither, it’s of vital importance to understand this relationship and ensure that you, your family, your friends and everyone you know understands it. Let’s take a look at one of the most widely prescribed prescription drugs, Lipitor, as an example:

Lipitor, a stain drug, led all pharmaceutical sales in 2008, grossing $7.8 billion in sales. Lipitor is the most commonly prescribed medication for high cholesterol levels. The purpose of this article is not to call into question the effectiveness of Lipitor – although clearly it and all medications have potential safety issues, as evidenced by the extensive list of warnings/side effects listed on every bottle; rather, it is to highlight the fact that this medication is very commonly prescribed and carries various biochemical side effects, and that several nutritional supplements may affect the intended action of Lipitor when taken in combination with it. Please be sure to check with your health care provider prior to taking these or any other nutritional supplements.

How Supplements Can Improve Lipitor’s Performance

CoQ10: CoQ10 synthesis is impaired by Lipitor. This side effect is common, as Lipitor reduces the production of CoQ10 , which is an important enzyme involved in energy production. Lipitor is also known to cause reduced energy levels, so supplementation with CoQ10 may be recommended for patients taking Lipitor to help restore enzyme depletion caused by this drug and to help combat decreased energy levels.

Carnitine: This amino acid may provide a synergistic lipid-lowering property when combined with statin drugs. Some research has shown that L-carnitine helps to break down low-density lipoprotein (“bad”) cholesterol.

Garlic (Allium sativum): Garlic may increase Lipitor’s effectiveness, in that it is thought to reduce cholesterol levels because it contains certain compounds that inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver.

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Avoid these with heart medications

Photo: Thinkstock

Published: June, 2013

Interactions with common foods, beverages, vitamins, and supplements can change how your medicine works.

If you have heart disease or are at risk for it, you probably take two or more prescription drugs. It’s in your best interest to make sure these drugs work as well as they should. That’s why you need to know about foods, beverages, vitamins, dietary supplements, over-the-counter drugs, or other prescription medications that could interact with your medications. An interaction may cause the drug to become more powerful or less effective. If either happens to you, your heart disease could progress, or you might be at increased risk for a heart attack or fatal arrhythmia.

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Does Lipitor Interact with other Medications?

Severe Interactions

These medications are not usually taken together. Consult your healthcare professional (e.g., doctor or pharmacist) for more in formation.

Serious Interactions

These medications may interact and cause very harmful effects. Consult your healthcare professional (e.g., doctor or pharmacist) for more in formation.


Moderate Interactions

These medications may cause some risk when taken together. Consult your healthcare professional (e.g., doctor or pharmacist) for more in formation.

About atorvastatin

Type of medicine A lipid-regulating medicine commonly known as a statin
Used for Lowering cholesterol and other lipids; to reduce the risk of heart and blood vessel disease
Also called (UK) Lipitor®
Also called (USA) Lipitor®; combination brand: Caduet® (atorvastatin with amlodipine)
Available as Tablets and chewable tablets

Lipids, or fats, are easily stored in your body and serve as a source of energy. Cholesterol is a type of lipid that is made in your liver from the fatty foods that you eat. When the concentration of cholesterol in your blood is too high, it is called hypercholesterolaemia. Although a high level of cholesterol will not make you feel ill, it can cause a problem if left untreated.

People with hypercholesterolaemia can develop small fatty patches called atheroma. These patches develop when excess fat is deposited on to the walls of blood vessels. Over time, these patches can make a blood vessel narrower and this is called atherosclerosis (sometimes referred to as ‘hardening of the arteries’). The narrowing reduces the blood flow through the artery and increases the risk of a number of heart and blood vessel diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.

Atorvastatin belongs to a group of medicines known as statins (or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors). It reduces the amount of cholesterol made by your body. It does this by blocking the action of a certain enzyme which is needed to make cholesterol. This lowers your risk of heart and blood vessel disease. Atorvastatin can also reduce the risk of heart disease in people who have an increased risk of it, even if their cholesterol levels are normal.

Before taking atorvastatin

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking atorvastatin it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works, or if you have ever had a disease which has affected your liver.
  • If you have a problem with unexplained muscle aches or pains.
  • If you regularly drink large amounts of alcohol.
  • If you have an underactive thyroid.
  • If you have previously had a stroke caused by bleeding into your brain.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.

How to take atorvastatin

  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer’s printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about atorvastatin and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Take atorvastatin once each day. There are several strengths of tablet available, so your doctor will tell you which strength is right for you.
  • You can generally take atorvastatin at a time of day to suit you, but it is best to take your doses at the same time of day each day. You can take the tablets either before or after food.
  • If you have been given atorvastatin chewable tablets, you can chew the tablets to help you swallow, or you can swallow them whole with a drink of water.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so that your doctor can check on your progress. You will need to have blood tests from time to time. These are to measure your cholesterol level and also to check that your liver has not been affected by taking atorvastatin.
  • Your doctor will give you advice about eating a healthy diet, cutting down on the amount of alcohol you normally drink, reducing the amount of salt in your diet, stopping smoking and taking regular exercise. Following this advice will also help you to reduce your risk of developing heart and blood vessel disease.
  • Do not drink more than one or two small glasses of grapefruit juice a day. This is because a chemical in grapefruit juice can increase the amount of atorvastatin in your bloodstream, which can make side-effects more likely.
  • Women taking atorvastatin must avoid getting pregnant. Make sure you have discussed with your doctor which types of contraception are suitable for you and your partner.
  • Treatment with atorvastatin is usually long-term unless you experience an adverse effect. Continue to take the tablets unless you are advised otherwise by your doctor.

Can atorvastatin cause problems?

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with atorvastatin, although these tend to be mild. You will find a full list in the manufacturer’s information leaflet supplied with your medicine. Unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common atorvastatin side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people) What can I do if I experience this?
Muscle aches or pains Although this may not be anything to be concerned about, you should tell your doctor about it. This is because there is a rare but serious side-effect of atorvastatin which is a severe form of muscle inflammation
Headache Drink plenty of water and ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headaches continue, let your doctor know
Constipation Try to eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water each day
Diarrhoea Drink plenty of water to replace any lost fluids
Feeling sick, indigestion, wind (flatulence) Stick to simple meals – avoid rich or spicy food
Nosebleeds, cold-like symptoms such as runny nose or sneezing Speak with your doctor if any of these become troublesome

Important: atorvastatin has been associated with more serious side-effects in a very few people. Although these occur only rarely, it is important that you tell your doctor straightaway if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • If you develop any muscle cramps or pains, particularly if they are in your legs and you also feel unwell or have a high temperature (fever).
  • If you feel short of breath or develop an unexplained cough. This is because (in very rare cases), atorvastatin may cause a disease called interstitial lung disease.
  • If you develop any allergic-type reactions, such as swelling around your mouth or face, or a skin rash.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the tablets, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

How to store atorvastatin

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Important information about all medicines

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

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