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Does Lipitor Affect The Immune System?

Posting Date: 12/18/2000

Q: I have been taking Lipitor for the last two years to lower my cholesterol. Last year I had an outbreak of cold sores on my lip.

My dermatologist said my immune system was compromised and prescribed Valtrex daily for one year. Could this problem be related to Lipitor?

A: Research suggesting that cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor, Mevacor or Pravachol can suppress the immune system is brand new. Swiss researchers have shown that these compounds prevent activation of some immune system cells. Whether this would cause complications similar to your experience, no one yet knows.

Doctors discovered this immune modulating effect after noticing that that patients taking such medicines did better than others following a heart transplant. Normally the immune system tries to reject an organ from another person.

While dampening the immune system is beneficial for transplant patients, we do not know if it might have worrisome consequences for other people.