Generic for Lipitor
On November 30, 2011 the FDA gave it's approval to drug manufacturer Watson Pharmaceuticals to begin distribution of the long-awaited generic for Lipitor, known as "atorvastatin." Representatives of the company have called this the "largest generic product launch in U.S. history."
As a pharmacist, the introduction of a generic drug of this magnitude tends to provoke a lot of questions. This generic release will reduce the health care costs of treating high cholesterol significantly, both for consumers and for insurance companies alike. At the same time, the loss in profits at Pfizer (the makers of Lipitor) will create unprecidented challenges for the pharmaceutical giant. Sources reveal that Lipitor sales amounted to nearly 8 billion over the previous 12 months and were nearly 10.7 billion in 2010.
In this article I will try to briefly answer some of the most common questions about the new generic Lipitor. If you have more questions, please feel free to ask?
HOW MUCH WILL GENERIC LIPITOR COST?
Expect the sticker price to consumers paying "out of pocket" to be about half of the brand name version of Lipitor for the first 6 months. The reason that the savings are not greater is that there are so few generic versions currently available. In addition to Watson, only 1 other manufacturer (Ranbaxy) has received approval to market the generic Lipitor.
This limited number of generic manufacturers will exist for the first 6 months only. After this, expect the price of generic Lipitor to fall even more as more manufacturers are granted approval to make and market this product.
Most pharmacies will now begin to automatically switch your prescription to the generic Lipitor now that it is available, unless you request otherwise. If you have been taking Lipitor, be sure to ask your pharmacy about receiving the generic Lipitor if possible and if it is less expensive.
There may be some insurance companies that will NOT cover the generic Lipitor, but will provide patients with the brand name Lipitor at the generic price. If so, you will notice your copay for the brand name Lipitor has gone down.
IS GENERIC LIPITOR SAFE?
Some patients are wondering if it is safe to switch to generic Lipitor. I have a secret to share with you. Promise not to tell anyone? Okay...shhhhh...this is TOP secret:
The generic version of Lipitor marketed by Watson is MADE by Pfizer (the makers of Lipitor). Yes, that is right. The generic of Lipitor...is actually the SAME as the brand name Lipitor.
Pfizer struck a deal with the manufacturer Watson. Pfizer makes Lipitor for Watson, and Pfizer gets to receive 70% of the profits of the sales.
So the end result of this wheeling and dealing between manufacturers is this: the generic version of Lipitor made by Watson is exactly the same medication you were taking while on brand name Lipitor. No difference. Nada.
Generic drugs provide the same quality medication as their brand name counterparts at substantial savings. Generics cost less because they did not have to spend money obtaining the safety and effectiveness data (a costly process) that the brand name manufacturer did. Also, generic manufacturers typically do not need to employ a similar sales force or invest in Research and Development like brand manufacturers do.
CAN I STILL GET BRAND NAME LIPITOR?
But what about patients that want to continue to get brand name Lipitor? Will it still be available?
Remember what I said in the above section: the generic Lipitor made by Watson IS the brand name Lipitor you were taking before. However, patients who still want it may continue to receive brand name Lipitor, although you might have to pay more than before (but not necessarily). The brand name is still available. And Pfizer is working hard to negotiate with major health care plans to get Lipitor available for patients at the generic copay level (tier 1).
Additionally, patients can also contact Pfizer about getting a $4/month copay card that will help lower the monthly cost of brand name Lipitor to just $4 for eligible patients.
In some states patients may need to ask their doctor to write "No Substitution" on the Lipitor prescription in order to be dispensed the brand name at the pharmacy.