Liver effects: Liver function tests should be performed before the initiation of treatment and periodically thereafter. Patients who develop any signs or symptoms suggestive of liver injury should have liver function tests performed. Patients who develop increased transaminase levels should be monitored until the abnormality (ies) resolve. Should an increase in transaminases of greater than 3 times the upper limit of normal (ULN) persist, reduction of dose or withdrawal of atorvastatin is recommended (see Adverse Reactions).
Atorvastatin should be used with caution in patients who consume substantial quantities of alcohol and/or have a history of liver disease.
Stroke Prevention by Aggressive Reduction in Cholesterol Levels (SPARCL): In a post-hoc analysis of stroke subtypes in patients without coronary heart disease (CHD) who had a recent stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) there was a higher incidence of hemorrhagic stroke in patients initiated on atorvastatin 80 mg compared to placebo. The increased risk was particularly noted in patients with prior hemorrhagic stroke or lacunar infarct at study entry. For patients with prior hemorrhagic stroke or lacunar infarct, the balance of risks and benefits of atorvastatin 80 mg is uncertain, and the potential risk of hemorrhagic stroke should be carefully considered before initiating treatment (see Pharmacology: Pharmacodynamics under Actions).
Skeletal muscle effects: Atorvastatin, like other HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, may in rare occasions affect the skeletal muscle and cause myalgia, myositis, and myopathy that may progress to rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition characterised by markedly elevated creatine kinase (CK) levels (>10 times ULN), myoglobinaemia and myoglobinuria which may lead to renal failure.
Before the treatment: Atorvastatin should be prescribed with caution in patients with pre-disposing factors for rhabdomyolysis. A CK level should be measured before starting statin treatment in the following situations: Renal impairment; hypothyroidism; personal or familial history of hereditary muscular disorders; previous history of muscular toxicity with a statin or fibrate; previous history of liver disease and/or where substantial quantities of alcohol are consumed; in elderly (age >70 years), the necessity of such measurement should be considered, according to the presence of other predisposing factors for rhabdomyolysis; situations where an increase in plasma levels may occur, such as interactions (see Interactions) and special populations including genetic subpopulations (see Pharmacology: Pharmaokinetics under Actions).
In such situations, the risk of treatment should be considered in relation to possible benefit, and clinical monitoring is recommended.
If CK levels are significantly elevated (>5 times ULN) at baseline, treatment should not be started.
Creatine kinase measurement: Creatine kinase (CK) should not be measured following strenuous exercise or in the presence of any plausible alternative cause of CK increase as this makes value interpretation difficult. If CK levels are significantly elevated at baseline (>5 times ULN), levels should be remeasured within 5 to 7 days later to confirm the results.
Whilst on treatment: Patients must be asked to promptly report muscle pain, cramps, or weakness especially if accompanied by malaise or fever.
If such symptoms occur whilst a patient is receiving treatment with atorvastatin, their CK levels should be measured. If these levels are found to be significantly elevated (>5 times ULN), treatment should be stopped.
If muscular symptoms are severe and cause daily discomfort, even if the CK levels are elevated to ≤5 x ULN, treatment discontinuation should be considered.
If symptoms resolve and CK levels return to normal, then re-introduction of atorvastatin or introduction of an alternative statin may be considered at the lowest dose and with close monitoring.
Atorvastatin must be discontinued if clinically significant elevation of CK levels (>10 x ULN) occur, or if rhabdomyolysis is diagnosed or suspected.
Concomitant treatment with other medicinal products: Risk of rhabdomyolysis is increased when atorvastatin is administered concomitantly with certain medicinal products that may increase the plasma concentration of atorvastatin such as potent inhibitors of CYP3A4 or transport proteins (e.g. ciclosporine, telithromycin, clarithromycin, delavirdine, stiripentol, ketoconazole, voriconazole, itraconazole, posaconazole and HIV protease inhibitors including ritonavir, lopinavir, atazanavir, indinavir, darunavir, etc). The risk of myopathy may also be increased with the concomitant use of gemfibrozil and other fibric acid derivates, boceprevir, erythromycin, niacin ,ezetimibe, telaprevir, or the combination of tipranavir/ritonavir. If possible, alternative (non-interacting) therapies should be considered instead of these medicinal products.
There have been very rare reports of an immune-mediated necrotising myopathy (IMNM) during or after treatment with statins, including atorvastatin. IMNM is clinically characterised by proximal muscle weakness and elevated serum creatine kinase, which persist despite discontinuation of statin treatment.
In cases where co-administration of these medicinal products with atorvastatin is necessary, the benefit and the risk of concurrent treatment should be carefully considered. When patients are receiving medicinal products that increase the plasma concentration of atorvastatin, a lower maximum dose of atorvastatin is recommended. In addition, in the case of potent CYP3A4 inhibitors, a lower starting dose of atorvastatin should be considered and appropriate clinical monitoring of these patients is recommended (see Interactions).
The concurrent use of atorvastatin and fusidic acid is not recommended, therefore, temporary suspension of atorvastatin may be considered during fusidic acid therapy (see Interactions).
Interstitial lung disease: Exceptional cases of interstitial lung disease have been reported with some statins, especially with long term therapy (see Adverse Reactions). Presenting features can include dyspnoea, non-productive cough and deterioration in general health (fatigue, weight loss and fever). If it is suspected a patient has developed interstitial lung disease, statin therapy should be discontinued.
Diabetes Mellitus: Some evidence suggests that statins as a class raise blood glucose and in some patients, at high risk of future diabetes, may produce a level of hyperglycaemia where formal diabetes care is appropriate. This risk, however, is outweighed by the reduction in vascular risk with statins and therefore should not be a reason for stopping statin treatment. Patients at risk (fasting glucose 5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L, BMI > 30kg/m2, raised triglycerides, hypertension) should be monitored both clinically and biochemically according to national guidelines.
Excipients: Atorvastatin contains lactose. Patients with rare hereditary problems of galactose intolerance, Lapp lactose deficiency or glucose-galactose malabsorption should not take this medicine.
Effects on ability to drive and use machines: Atorvastatin has negligible influence on the ability to drive and use machines.
Women of childbearing potential: Women of child-bearing potential should use appropriate contraceptive measures during treatment (see Contraindications).
Fertility: In animal studies atorvastatin had no effect on male or female fertility (see Pharmacology: Toxicology: Preclinical Safety Data under Actions).
Use in Children: Developmental safety in the paediatric population has not been established (see Adverse Reactions).