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In recent years, a growing amount of research has been published linking Lipitor and kidney damage. Kidney problems can occur gradually, and they can also occur suddenly as a complication of severe muscle damage (rhabdomyolysis). In rare cases, kidney damage from Lipitor can be fatal.

Lipitor and Kidney Damage

Pfizer’s blockbuster cholesterol-lowering medication Lipitor (generic: atorvastatin) has been linked to a potential risk of kidney damage and kidney failure (also known as “renal disease”). Individuals who take high doses of Lipitor have a higher risk of kidney problems. However, anyone who takes Lipitor is at risk of kidney problems — especially in the first year of treatment. Kidney problems can also be a complication of other side effects of Lipitor, such as type-2 diabetes and rhabdomyolysis.

The kidneys are organs that filter the blood and remove excess fluids and wastes. Individuals with kidney failure may require hemodialysis, in which a machine mechanically cleans their blood. They may also require a kidney transplant and prolonged hospitalization.

Kidney Damage from Rhabdomyolysis

Lipitor is associated with a muscle disease called rhabdomyolysis, which can cause severe kidney damage and kidney failure. Rhabdomyolysis occurs when skeletal muscles break down and spill their contents into the bloodstream, including a protein called myoglobin, which clogs the filters in the kidneys. This impairs kidney function and can cause kidney failure.

Studies of Lipitor and Kidney Damage

Lipitor belongs to a class of cholesterol-lowering medications called statins that have been linked to kidney damage. The British Medical Journal published a study in January 2013 that focused on “high-potency” statins such as Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor. After evaluating data on more than 2 million patients, they found:

“Current users of high-potency statins were 34% more likely to be hospitalized with acute kidney injury within 120 days of starting treatment.”

Symptoms of Kidney Damage

People with kidney damage from Lipitor may not know it for many years. Symptoms of kidney damage often do not appear until the kidneys stop filtering the blood. When symptoms do appear, the damage may be severe and irreversible.

Symptoms of kidney damage include:

  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Unexplained fatigue, weakness, or tiredness
  • Skin is itchy or dry
  • Changes in urinary habits
  • Anemia
  • Bone loss
  • Worsening heart problems
  • Feet and ankles are swollen
  • High blood pressure
  • And more
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