Atorvastatin, known by its brand name Lipitor, is a member of the statin class of drugs. It is primarily used in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Statins work by blocking an enzyme involved in cholesterol synthesis lowering the cholesterol levels in blood. If high levels of cholesterol were to remain in the blood, plaque would build up on the walls of the arteries of the body, eventually resulting in heart disease.
Serious Side Effects of Lipitor
The FDA drug label on Lipitor warns of Lipitor’s severe side effects. Some adverse reactions are amnesia, anemia, angina pectoris (chest pain), amblyopia (lazy eye), eye hemorrhage, deafness, glaucoma (eye disorders that could lead to blindness), kidney calculus (kidney stones), and nephritis (kidney inflammation).
Common Side Effects of Lipitor
Liptor’s common side effects include:
- Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- Lymphadenopathy (abnormal lymph node disease)
- Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count)
- Petechiae (red or purple skin spots that occur from bleeding)
- Gout (Uric acid arthiritis)
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Vasodilatation (widening blood vessels)
- Syncope (temporary loss of unconsciousness from fall of blood pressure)
- Postural Hypotension (low blood pressure from sitting or lying down)
- Phlebitis (vein inflammation)
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Cystitis (bladder infection)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Dysuria (painful urination)
- Nocturia (excessive urination during the night)
- Epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymitis)
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Vaginal hemorrhage
- Metrorrhagia (abnomarl bleeding from the uterus)
- Uterine hemorrhage
- Pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation)
Other side effects include parosmia (not recognizing smells), taste loss, tinnitus (noise or ringing in the ears), dry eyes, refraction disorder, ecchymosis (reddish or bluish discoloration of the skin), weight gain, face and generalized edema (swelling), photosensitivity reaction, and malaise (pain or uneasiness).
Less common side effects of Lipitor are nausea, insomnia, dizziness, rhinitis (stuffy nose), dyspnea (difficulty breathing), epistaxis (nose bleeding), urinary tract infection, hematuria (blood in urine), albuminuria (protein in the urine, possible sign of kidney disease) (Lipitor label from the FDA).
How Does Pharmacogenetic Testing Work?
Lipitor is processed in the liver by a superfamily of enzymes, predominantly an enzyme called “CYP3A4.” Genetically encoded inter-individual variations in this enzyme may result in the drug being metabolized poorly or too quickly, potentially increasing the risk of developing side effects or toxicity.
Another gene is also associated with the development of side effects when taking Lipitor, which puts patients at increased risk of developing myopathy (muscle fiber dysfunction) (Exercise Sports Science Review “Effect of Statins on Skeletal Muscle: Exercise, Myopathy, and Muscle Outcomes” October 2012).
Personalized Medicine: FDA’s Role in a New Era of Medical Product Development released in 2013 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, recommends doctors alter the dosage of the drug given a patient’s genotype (U.S. Food and Drug Administration “Paving the Way for Personalized Medicine” October 2013).
Identifying these genetic variants, and thus metabolic variants, in patients can aid in clinical decision-making. For instance, a physician may alter dose and can reduce the risk of developing side effects when taking the drug or find a safer alternative.
Understand Your Risks with the Rxight® Genetic Test
MD Labs’ Rxight® pharmacogenetic testing program is grounded in a process called “SNP genotyping” to ascertain a patient’s unique genetically modulated reaction to over 200 prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications across dozens of clinically significant medication classes.
Knowing your DNA blueprint enables you and your provider to decide the dosing that is safest, or to discontinue therapy and find an alternative medication. All that is required is a simple cheek swab of your DNA, which is sent to our lab for processing, after which your results will be reviewed with a pharmacist with expertise in pharmacogenetic testing. Your results can then guide prescribers in adjusting the dose tailored to your unique genetic profile.
Contributors to this Article:
Michael Sapko, MD, PhD; and Deborah Kallick, PhD, Medicinal Chemistry
Read more about Rxight® Pharmacogenetic Testing Labs