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LIPITOR Atorvastatin Calcium Tablets Action And Clinical Pharmacology

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Action And Clinical Pharmacology

Mechanism of Action

LIPITOR (atorvastatin calcium) is a synthetic lipid-lowering agent. It is a selective, competitive inhibitor of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase. This enzyme catalyzes the conversion of HMG-CoA to mevalonate, which is an early and rate-limiting step in the biosynthesis of cholesterol.

LIPITOR lowers plasma cholesterol and lipoprotein levels by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase and cholesterol synthesis in the liver and by increasing the number of hepatic Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) receptors on the cell-surface for enhanced uptake and catabolism of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL).

LIPITOR reduces LDL-Cholesterol (LDL-C) and the number of LDL particles. LIPITOR also reduces Very Low Density Lipoprotein-Cholesterol (VLDL-C), serum triglycerides (TG) and Intermediate Density Lipoproteins (IDL), as well as the number of apolipoprotein B (apo B) containing particles, but increases High Density Lipoprotein-Cholesterol (HDL-C). Elevated serum cholesterol due to elevated LDL-C is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. Low serum concentration of HDL-C is also an independent risk factor.

Elevated plasma TG is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, particularly if due to increased IDL, or associated with decreased HDL-C or increased LDL-C.

Epidemiologic, clinical and experimental studies have established that high LDL-C, low HDL-C and high plasma TG promote human atherosclerosis and are risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. Some studies have also shown that the total (TC):HDL-C ratio (TC:HDL-C) is the best predictor of coronary artery disease. In contrast, increased levels of HDL-C are associated with decreased cardiovascular risk. Drug therapies that reduce levels of LDL-C or decrease TG while simultaneously increasing HDL-C have demonstrated reductions in rates of cardiovascular mortality and morbidity.


The lowering of total cholesterol, LDL-C and ApoB have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events and mortality.

LIPITOR (atorvastatin calcium) is a selective, competitive inhibitor of HMG-CoA reductase. In both subjects and in patients with homozygous and heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, nonfamilial forms of hypercholesterolemia, mixed dyslipidemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and dysbetalipoproteinemia, LIPITOR has been shown to reduce levels of total cholesterol (total-C), LDL-C, apo B and total TG, and raises HDL-C levels.

Epidemiologic and clinical studies have associated the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) with elevated levels of total-C, LDL-C and decreased levels of HDL-C. These abnormalities of lipoprotein metabolism are considered as major contributors to the development of the disease. Like LDL, cholesterol-enriched lipoproteins, including VLDL, IDL and remnants can also promote atherosclerosis. Elevated plasma triglycerides are frequently found in a triad with low HDL-C levels and small LDL particles, as well as in association with non-lipid metabolic risk factors for coronary heart disease (metabolic syndrome). Clinical studies have also shown that serum triglycerides can be an independent risk factor for CAD. CAD risk is especially increased if the hypertriglyceridemia is due to increased intermediate density lipoproteins (IDL) or associated with decreased HDL or increased LDL-C. In addition, high TG levels are associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis. Although epidemiological and preliminary clinical evidence link low HDL-C levels and high triglyceride levels with coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis, the independent effect of raising HDL or lowering TG on the risk of coronary and cerebrovascular morbidity and mortality has not been demonstrated in prospective, well- controlled outcome studies. Other factors, e.g. interactions between lipids/lipoproteins and endothelium, platelets and macrophages, have also been incriminated in the development of human atherosclerosis and of its complications. Regardless of the intervention used (low- fat/low-cholesterol diet, partial ileal bypass surgery or pharmacologic therapy), effective treatment of hypercholesterolemia/ dyslipidemia has consistently been shown to reduce the risk of CAD.

LIPITOR reduces LDL-C and the number of LDL particles, lowers Very Low Density Lipoprotein-Cholesterol (VLDL-C) and serum triglyceride, reduces the number of apo B containing particles, and also increases HDL-C. LIPITOR is effective in reducing LDL-C in patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, a condition that rarely responds to any other lipid-lowering medication. In addition to the above effects, LIPITOR reduces IDL-C and apolipoprotein E (apo E) in patients with dysbetalipoproteinemia (Type III).

In patients with type II hyperlipidemia, atorvastatin improved endothelial dysfunction. Atorvastatin significantly improved flow-mediated endothelium-dependent dilatation induced by reactive hyperemia, as assessed by brachial ultrasound (p<0.01).


Absorption: Atorvastatin is rapidly absorbed after oral administration; maximal plasma concentrations occur within 1 to 2 hours. Extent of absorption and plasma atorvastatin concentrations increases in proportion to atorvastatin dose. Atorvastatin tablets are 95-99% bioavailable compared to solutions. The absolute bioavailability (parent drug) of atorvastatin is approximately 12% and the systemic availability of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitory activity is approximately 30%. The low systemic availability is attributed to presystemic clearance in gastrointestinal mucosa and/or first-pass metabolism in the liver. Although food decreases the rate and extent of drug absorption by approximately 25% and 9%, as assessed by Cmax and AUC respectively, LDL-C reduction and HDL-C elevation are similar when atorvastatin is given with and without food. Plasma atorvastatin concentrations are lower (approximately 30% for Cmax and AUC) following drug administration in the evening compared with morning dosing.
However, LDL-C reduction and HDL-C elevation are the same regardless of the time of drug administration.

Distribution: Mean volume of distribution of atorvastatin is approximately 381 liters. Atorvastatin is ≥98% bound to plasma proteins. A blood/plasma ratio of approximately 0.25 indicates poor drug penetration into red blood cells. Based on observations in rats, atorvastatin is likely to be secreted in human milk.

Metabolism: Atorvastatin is extensively metabolized to ortho- and para-hydroxylated derivatives by cytochrome P-450 3A4 (CYP 3A4) and to various beta-oxidation products. In vitro, inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase by ortho- and para-hydroxylated metabolites is equivalent to that of atorvastatin. Approximately 70% of circulating inhibitory activity for HMG-CoA reductase is attributed to active metabolites. In animals, the ortho-hydroxy metabolite undergoes further glucuronidation. Atorvastatin and its metabolites are eliminated by biliary excretion.

Atorvastatin is a substrate of the hepatic transporters, organic anion-transporting polypeptide 1B1 (OATP1B1) and 1B3 (OATP1B3) transporter. Metabolites of atorvastatin are substrates of OATP1B1. Atorvastatin is also identified as a substrate of the efflux transporters MDR1 and BCRP, which may limit the intestinal absorption and biliary clearance of atorvastatin.

Excretion: Atorvastatin is eliminated primarily in bile following hepatic and/or extrahepatic metabolism; however, the drug does not appear to undergo significant enterohepatic recirculation. Mean plasma elimination half-life of atorvastatin in humans is approximately 14 hours, but the half-life for inhibitory activity for HMG-CoA reductase is 20 to 30 hours due to the contribution of longer-lived active metabolites. Less than 2% of a dose of atorvastatin is recovered in urine following oral administration.

Special Populations and Conditions

Pediatrics: Assessment of pharmacokinetic parameters such as Cmax, AUC and bioavailability of LIPITOR in pediatric patients (>10-<17 years old, postmenarche) was not performed during the 6-month, placebo-controlled trial referred to earlier (see Clinical Studies - Heterozygous Familial Hypercholesterolemia in Pediatric Patients and PRECAUTIONS - Pediatric Use).

In an open-label, 8-week study, Tanner Stage 1 (N=15) and Tanner Stage ≥2 (N=24) pediatric patients (ages 6-17 years) with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia and baseline LDL-C ≥4 mmol/L were treated with 5 or 10 mg of chewable or 10 or 20 mg of film-coated atorvastatin tablets once daily, respectively. Population PK analyses indicated that variability in atorvastatin PK was primarily affected by body weight. Allometric scaling by body weight was used to describe the changes in the apparent oral clearance of atorvastatin in the pediatric subjects. Apparent oral clearance (CL/F) of atorvastatin in pediatric subjects with the reference covariates Tanner Stage ≥ 2 and body weight of 70Kg appeared similar to adults however the value of CL/F is expected to be relatively lower for a lower weight individual. Consistent decreases in LDL-C and TC (at week 8, 40% and 30% from baseline, respectively) were observed over the range of atorvastatin and o-hydroxyatorvastatin simulated exposures.

Geriatrics: Plasma concentrations of atorvastatin are higher (approximately 40% for Cmax and 30% for AUC) in healthy elderly subjects (age 65 years or older) compared with younger individuals. LDL-C reduction, however, is comparable to that seen in younger patient populations.

Gender: Plasma concentrations of atorvastatin in women differ (approximately 20% higher for Cmax and 10% lower for AUC) from those in men; however, there is no clinically significant difference in LDL-C reduction between men and women.

Race: Plasma concentrations of atorvastatin are similar in black and white subjects.

Hepatic Insufficiency: Plasma concentrations of atorvastatin are markedly increased (approximately 16-fold in Cmax and 11-fold in AUC) in patients with chronic alcoholic liver disease (Childs-Pugh B).

Renal Insufficiency: Plasma concentrations and LDL-C lowering efficacy of LIPITOR are similar in patients with moderate renal insufficiency compared with patients with normal renal function. However, since several cases of rhabdomyolysis have been reported in patients with a history of renal insufficiency of unknown severity, as a precautionary measure and pending further experience in renal disease, the lowest dose (10 mg/day) of LIPITOR should be used in these patients. Similar precautions apply in patients with severe renal insufficiency [creatinine clearance <30 mL/min (<0.5 mL/sec)]; the lowest dosage should be used and implemented cautiously (see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS, Muscle Effects; DRUG INTERACTIONS; DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).

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