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Lipitor: What You Need to Know

        Health | Medications

Lipitor Side Effects
If you have unexplained muscle pain after starting Lipitor, see a doctor.
If you have unexplained muscle pain after starting Lipitor, see a doctor.
© iStockphoto.com/kenhurst

Common side effects of Lipitor include headache, constipation, diarrhea, gas, stomach pains, rash and muscle pain.

In some cases, those muscle pains may indicate a more serious side effect: A small percentage of patients had muscle problems so serious that developed rhabdomyolysis. This condition causes muscles to break down, emitting proteins in the process that lead to kidney failure. The chance of this side effect increases if you're taking certain other medications in addition to Lipitor, so, as with any prescription drug, you should tell your doctor about other medications you may be taking.

One other serious side effect is liver problems. If you already have liver problems, you shouldn't take Lipitor, and your doctor may perform blood tests during the time you're on Lipitor to monitor your liver. Signs of these serious side effects include extreme muscle weakness and tenderness, nausea and vomiting, dark-colored urine, unusual exhaustion, yellow eyes or skin, and stomach pain.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn't take Lipitor. However, a 2008 study raises the question of whether Lipitor has any benefit at all for women. The authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, claimed that proof that Lipitor reduces the risk of heart attack in women is lacking [source: Wiley-Blackwell]. Rather, the authors asserted, Pfizer was marketing the drug as beneficial to both genders and not disclosing the portion of the FDA-sanctioned label that admitted the evidence for women was lacking [source: Wiley-Blackwell].

The question of whether women should take Lipitor becomes important when you consider the possibility that the drug might result in memory loss in women. In 2008, Dr. Orli Etingin, vice chairman of medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital, said, "This drug makes women stupid" [sources: Cahoon, Beck]. The quote, which was picked up by several media outlets, spurred many doctors to speak in defense of Lipitor. These doctors claimed that any evidence of memory loss linked to Lipitor was purely anecdotal, and that its benefits far outweigh this potential side effect. Because more studies on statins and cognitive effects are needed, it's worth asking your doctor about the latest research if you're concerned.

You can avoid some of Lipitor's more dangerous side effects by staying away from one substance. Find out what it is on the next page.


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