Atorvastatin is generally well-tolerated. Minor side effects include constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, gas, heartburn, and headache. Atorvastatin may cause liver and muscle damage. Serious liver damage caused by statins is rare. Liver tests should be performed at the beginning of treatment then as needed thereafter. Inflammation of the muscles caused by statins can lead to serious breakdown of muscle cells called rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis causes the release of muscle protein (myoglobin) into the blood, and myoglobin can cause kidney failure and even death. When used alone, statins cause rhabdomyolysis in less than one percent of patients. To prevent the development of serious rhabdomyolysis, patients taking atorvastatin should contact their health care professional immediately if they develop unexplained muscle pain, weakness, or muscle tenderness.
Atorvastatin is used for the treatment of elevated total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides and to elevate HDL cholesterol. The effectiveness of atorvastatin in lowering cholesterol is dose-related, meaning that higher doses reduce cholesterol more. Atorvastatin prevents angina, stroke, heart attack, hospitalization for congestive heart failure, and revascularization procedures in individuals with coronary artery disease. Atorvastatin reduces the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, angina and revascularization procedures in adults with multiple risk factors for coronary artery disease. Atorvastatin also prevents heart attacks and strokes in patients with type 2 diabetes with multiple risk factors for coronary artery disease.