Sales of Lipitor dropped by half after the world’s best-selling drug got its first generic competition in the US.  Patent protection for Lipitor expired on November 30 and two generic versions hit the market right away.  One of the generics is an authorized generic made by Pfizer and sold by its partner Watson Pharmaceuticals.  The other generic is made by Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. of India.

Lipitor’s share of statin prescriptions dropped from 20.9% to 9.7% over the time period tracked.  Nearly 476,000 new prescriptions for generic Lipitor, called atorvastatin, were filled during the same time period, with slightly less than 80% of the prescriptions written for the generic version manufactured by Watson Pharmaceuticals.  The count contained prescriptions filled at independent pharmacies, chain drug stores, and pharmacies in supermarkets and discounters such as Target.  Prescriptions filled by mail order were not included in the count.

Pfizer Inc., the maker of Lipitor, posted a very aggressive effort to keep patients using its medication by offering patient subsidies and big rebates to insurers.  For several months, the company heavily advertised a program called “Lipitor For You”, which offered insured patients a card that allowed them to receive Lipitor for $4 for a month’s supply, with Pfizer covering the rest of the cost.  Spokesman MacKay Jimeson said Pfizer estimates around 5% of patients currently taking Lipitor in the US and Puerto Rico will choose to enroll in the program.

The generic versions cost about 30% less than the medication made by Pfizer.  The cost of Lipitor ranges from about $115 a month for the lowest Lipitor dose to $160 a month for the higher doses while the new generics cost about $80 and $100 a month.  Lipitor generated peak sales of $13 billion a year.  Lipitor’s patent loss has been watched closely by the pharmaceutical industry as most companies face generic competition and reduced revenue for some of their most popular drugs over the next few years.

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