Lipitor, made by Pfizer, is considered a miracle drug for the millions of patients who take this statin medication. Statin medications are so effective at lowering “bad” cholesterol and preventing secondary heart attacks and strokes, that they have become one of the worlds most widely prescribed drugs.
Pfizer held the patent on its Lipitor medication for 14 years. The patent expired December 1, 2011, and everyone thought the cost savings with the generic would be considerable. Unfortunately, the generic version, introduced December 1st, is almost as expensive as the high-priced brand name.
The price of the generic drug, atorvastatin, is expected to drop after May 31st, when several manufacturers (such as Teva and Mylan) will be permitted to put their own versions on the market.
It is predicted that before long, the generic cost will be 95 percent less than name-brand Lipitor, at approximately $20 or $30 for a three month supply, compared with $450 to $500 for the brand name.
Experts explain that it is not until the second, third, or fourth manufacturers come into the market that you really see the prices come down. Even then, they urge patients to shop around, as prices can vary tremendously.
Lipitor patients were looking forward to a big price drop when atorvastatin came out, but experts say that it didn’t happen because of federal drug laws. Makers of brand-name drugs are allowed a certain amount of time without any generic competition on the market, which Pfizer somehow pushed for 14 years for its Lipitor. After the patent expired, the first generic maker, Ranbaxy Laboratories in India, can sell without competition for six months. Ranbaxy’s 6-month window closes May 31st.
Ranbaxy was greedy, as well. Although their generic was priced lower than the brand Lipitor, the savings were minimal. This is not what everyone expected from the launch of Lipitor’s first generic.
A one-month supply of 20 mg pills sells online and at Wal-Mart for about $130, compared to Lipitor at $165. Big pharmacies are charging more than Wal-Mart, about $165 for the generic vs. $190 for the brand.
Pfizer is now offering their brand Lipitor cheaper than the generic with various discounts. All of a sudden, Pfizer finds a way to lower the cost to the consumer, now that the generics have come out. Where were they for the past 14 years when many of the consumers who are on fixed incomes had to struggle to pay the high costs for this medication? Pfizer also offered to pay big rebates to health insurers and firms that manage drug benefits for employers, to stop them from switching patients to the generic.
After May 31st, Ranbaxy plans on lowering its price, as several competitors will begin to sell atorvastatin in coming months.
Pharmacies most likely will purchase a month’s supply for just a few dollars, but don’t expect them to pass all of these savings onto the consumers. So even though the chain pharmacies may knock the price down to $30 to $50 a month, they are only paying about $3 per month. This is still a considerable savings to the consumer, but the intention of the generics was to pass the savings on to help the consumer.
The experts say that nobody should be paying more than $20 or $30 for a 90-day supply within a few months after May 31st. It is also recommended that consumers check out the prices at the smaller pharmacies, as compared to the big chains, for considerable cost savings. The hope is that competition will eventually drive the price so low that some pharmacies will sell the generic for $4 a month.
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