Sounds like 'a-tor-va-stat-in'

Easy-to-read medicine information about atorvastatin – what is it, how to take atorvastatin safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Medicine to lower cholesterol (cholesterol is a type of fat in the body)
  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as statins
  • Lipitor®
  • Zarator®

What is atorvastatin?

  • Atorvastatin is used to lower cholesterol (fat) levels in your blood. When excess cholesterol collects in the walls of your blood vessels, it increases your chance of having a heart attack, or stroke. Lowering cholesterol reduces your risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
  • Atorvastatin can also reduce your chance of heart disease if you have an increased risk of it, even if your cholesterol levels are normal.
  • Atorvastatin works by blocking an enzyme that produces cholesterol and in this way slows the production of cholesterol in your body.
  • A review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins (including atorvastatin) found that around 1 in every 50 people treated with a statin for 5 years would avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke.


  • The starting dose of atorvastatin is usually 10 milligrams or 20 milligrams once a day.
  • Depending on your cholesterol level, your doctor may increase your dose gradually to a maximum of 80 milligrams once a day.
  • Always take your atorvastatin exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much atorvastatin to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take atorvastatin

  • Take atorvastatin once a day, at around the same time each day.
  • You can take atorvastatin either with or without food.
  • To reduce your cholesterol, you must keep taking atorvastatin every day.
  • Do not drink more than one or two small glasses of grapefruit juice a day. This is because grapefruit juice has a chemical that can increase the amount of atorvastatin in your blood, and increases the risk of side effects.
  • Limit drinking alcohol while your are taking atorvastatin. Alcohol can increase the risk of serious side effects.
  • If you forget your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, atorvastatin can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Diarrhoea (loose stools)
  • Stomach upset
  • Bloating or gas in the tummy
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Mild joint or muscle pain (especially in the legs or arms)
  • These are quite common when you first start taking atorvastatin, and usually go away with time
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Signs of problems with your muscles and kidneys such as muscle pain, muscle tenderness or weakness, dark coloured urine, yellowing of the skin or eyes, sharp pain in your stomach area
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine


Atorvastatin may interact with a few medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting atorvastatin or before starting any new medicines.

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets: Zarator

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: Atorvastatin

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft. Health Navigator NZ