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

Easy-to-read medicine information about atorvastatin – what it is, how to take atorvastatin safely and possible side effects. Atorvastatin is commonly called Lipitor, Lorstat or Zarator.

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
  • Lorstat®
  • Zarator®

What is atorvastatin?

Atorvastatin is used to lower the level of cholesterol (a type of fat) 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 in your liver and in this way slows the production of cholesterol in your body.

Atorvastatin belongs to a group of medicines called statins. Read more about statins and other frequently asked questions about statins


The dose of atorvastatin will depend on your cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, which is calculated by completing a heart risk assessmentYour doctor will discuss your CVD risk with you. As a guide, if you have:

  • a CVD risk of 10–20%: the usual atorvastatin starting dose is 20 milligrams daily; this may increase depending on your response.
  • a CVD risk greater than 20% : the usual atorvastatin starting dose is 20 – 40 milligrams daily; this may increase depending on your response.
  • a cardiovascular condition, or you've had a stroke or heart attack in the past : the usual atorvastatin dose is 20 – 80 milligrams daily, depending on the highest dose you can manage.

How to take atorvastatin

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.

  • Timing: Take atorvastatin once a day, at around the same time each day. You can take atorvastatin with or without food.
  • Avoid large quantities of grapefruit. Having large quantities of grapefruit while taking atorvastatin can increase your risk of side effects. But, eating no more than half a grapefruit or drinking no more than a standard glass (250 mL) of grapefruit juice each day, should not be a problem if you are taking statins.
  • Limit drinking alcohol while you are taking atorvastatin. Heavy drinking can increase your risk of side effects such as problems with your liver.
  • Missed dose: 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.
  • Keep taking atorvastatin regularly. To reduce your cholesterol effectively, you must keep taking atorvastatin every day. Treatment with atorvastatin is usually long term. 

Precautions – before starting atorvastatin

  • Do you have liver or kidney problems?
  • Do you have problems with your thyroid?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • Are your trying to get pregnant, think you might be pregnant, you're already pregnant, or you're breastfeeding?
  • Do you drink large amounts of alcohol?
  • Have you had, or do you have, a muscle disorder?

If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start atorvastatin. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care..

Side effects

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

Muscle pain or weakness

Some people will have muscle pain or weakness when taking statins. This is rarely serious and often goes away with time. If your pain comes on shortly after you start your statin, or gets worse, see your doctor. Your doctor will check an enzyme called creatine kinase to see if the aches and pains are possibly being caused or made worse by the statins. If so:

  • a lower dose or a different statin may be prescribed, or
  • you may choose to continue living with the aches because of the benefits of the statin, or
  • you may discuss stopping taking your statin with your doctor.

Your doctor will also want to check for a rare but serious condition called rhabdomyolisis and will check any other medicines you are taking. Rhabdomyolisis can be caused by an interaction between statins and some other medicines including antibiotics.

Increased risk of type 2 diabetes

There is a small chance that statins may increase your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. However, it is usually recommended that people at risk of diabetes do take statins if they are needed to help lower their cholesterol. This is because the overall benefit in health and wellbeing of taking statins and preventing a heart attack or stroke is seen to be greater than the problems from diabetes.

Other side effects

Side effects* What should I do?**
  • Headache
  • This is quite common when you first start taking atorvastatin, and usually goes away with time
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Diarrhoea (loose stools)
  • Stomach upset
  • Bloating or gas in the tummy
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • These are quite common when you first start taking atorvastatin, and usually go away with time
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Muscle aches and pain or muscle weakness
  • Tell your doctor
  • Signs of problems with your liver such as dark coloured urine, yellowing of the skin or eyes, sharp pain in your stomach area
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as itchy skin, and rash
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
* For more information on side effects, see the Medsafe consumer information leaflet Lorstat.
** Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product


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

Learn more

The following links have more information on atorvastatin.

Atorvastatin (Māori) New Zealand Formulary Patient Information
Lorstat ; Zarator Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets
StatinsHeart Foundation, NZ


  1. Prescribing statins to reduce cardiovascular risk BPAC, 2017
  2. Investigating myalgia in patients taking statins BPAC, 2014
  3. Statins New Zealand Formulary
  4. Atorvastatin New Zealand Formulary
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 22 Jan 2018