Cardiologists and primary care physicians all throughout the country have long awaited a cheaper version of the “biggest selling drug of all time.” According to the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog , Lipitor will be sold in a generic version by a company called Ranbaxy starting November 30, 2011. Lipitor’s manufacturer, Pfizer, has been able to put off the production of a generic by continually extending it’s patent for Lipitor. They found new indications for the drug which allowed for more and more patent extensions. Not to mention they have put plenty of money and effort in the legal battle over the rights to produce a generic. There is even some talk now about Pfizer legally trying to make Lipitor over-the-counter (highly unlikely!).
Lipitor, generic name atorvastatin, was originally used for treating high cholesterol. It inhibits a liver enzyme which usually signals production of more cholesterol for the body. Over time, it was found to prevent cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke. It is now also indicated for preventing heart attacks in people who already have heart disease. Regardless of cholesterol numbers, patients who have a heart attack will be placed on a statin like Lipitor as a means of preventing a second heart attack.
Other statin generics have been available for years now. Zocor’s generic (simvastatin) and Pravachol’s generic (pravastatin) have become very popular alternatives to Lipitor since they are much more affordable. Most physicians will tell you that these alternatives are just not as effective for reducing cholesterol compared to Lipitor or the just-as-expensive brand name Crestor. Clearly it is effectiveness that has kept Lipitor a top-selling drug in recent years. In this time of economic stress though, many uninsured people have had no choice but to make the switch to the cheaper statins. They simply cannot afford out-of-pocket Lipitor at $100 a month while simvastatin is only $15 a month and pravastatin is only $4 a month!
With this new generic Lipitor, atorvastatin could become just as cheap as the other generic statins. Hopefully it will still maintain it’s effectiveness as well. Ranbaxy will be the sole manufacturer of atorvastatin for the first 6 months which may mean continued higher pricing. Once other manufacturers join in on the competition, we should see a very affordable generic for Lipitor emerge!