Atorvastatin (Lipitor) Nursing Considerations

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Generic Name


Trade Name



Management of high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), primary prevention of cardiovascular disease


Lowers total cholesterol as well as LDL while slightly increasing HDL. Inhibits HMG-CoA reductase which plays a role in the liver in cholesterol formation

Therapeutic Class

Lipid-lowering agent

Pharmacologic Class

HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor

Similar Medications

Simvastatin (Zocor), rosuvastatin (Crestor)

Nursing Considerations

• Contraindicated in active liver disease
• May cause rhabdomyolysis
• Monitor renal function
• Monitor serum cholesterol before, about 4 weeks after starting, and fre-
quently during drug therapy
• Monitor liver function tests
• Instruct patient to report muscle weakness (sign of rhabdomyolysis)

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Hey guys, let’s talk about Atorvastatin, also known as Lipitor. This is an oral medication, as you can see here in the picture. So remember that the therapeutic class is what the drug does in the body while the pharmacologic class is the actual chemical effect. So the therapeutic class of atorvastatin is it is a lipid-lowering agent. While the pharmacologic class is an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor. HMG-CoA is an enzyme that is involved in cholesterol production. So what is the action of atorvastatin? So this drug inhibits the action of HMG-CoA, which is seen here, which like I previously stated, it’s an enzyme that forms cholesterol. So it’s also important to mention that not only does atorvastatin reduce cholesterol and LDL, which is the bad cholesterol, it also slightly raises HDL, which is the good cholesterol. We use atorvastatin for elevated cholesterol levels, also known as hypercholesterolemia and also to prevent cardiovascular diseases. 

So some of the common side effects seen with atorvastatin are constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and muscle cramping. So a few nursing considerations that we need to consider for atorvastatin is it is contraindicated in patients with active liver disease. Also, we have some similar medications, simvastatin and rosuvastatin, or Zocor and Crestor. They’re similar to atorvastatin as they are all statin medications, as you can see at the end of their name. Atorvastatin may cause a serious side effect called rhabdomyolysis also known as rhabdo. Monitor your patient’s renal and liver function. That’s important. Renal, liver, and cholesterol levels should be checked before therapy starts and four weeks after therapy, and at different times during therapy. Patient education should include signs of rhabdomyolysis, which are severe muscle pain and weakness, which should be reported immediately to the provider. So, guys, I do have many patients that are on statins and typically they have these muscle cramps that are usually related to a higher dose. So now this is not the severe muscle pain. That could be a sign of Rhabdo. This is just an annoying side effect and there is definitely a difference and you should be aware of this. 

So that’s it for atorvastatin or Lipitor. Now go out and be your best self today. And as always happy nursing.

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