Atorvastatin is part of a class of drugs called statins. The medication works by blocking a particular enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) that controls the rate of cholesterol production in the body. This causes the liver to make less cholesterol. It also increases the liver's ability to collect and get rid of LDL cholesterol. Atorvastatin also increases HDL ("good cholesterol") and decreases triglycerides.
The effects of atorvastatin reduce the following forms of cholesterol and fats in the body:
The main goal of any high cholesterol treatment is to lower your LDL cholesterol enough to reduce your risk for developing problems related to high cholesterol (see Effects of High Cholesterol). The higher your risk, the lower your LDL goal will be.
(Click High Cholesterol Risk to see what your risk is and what your LDL cholesterol level should be under.)
Any cholesterol treatment begins with lifestyle changes (such as weight loss, diet, and exercise). If lifestyle changes alone are not effective in lowering cholesterol to the desired level, cholesterol medication, such as atorvastatin, may be necessary.
Atorvastatin has been approved for treating high cholesterol in children ages 10 to 17 with a condition known as heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. For adolescent girls, Lipitor is approved to be started after their first period (but no sooner).