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Launch of Lipitor alternative spurs generics wave.

WASHINGTON -- Last month's launch of a generic version of Lipitor exemplifies the role of generic competition in reducing health care costs, says Ralph Neas, president and chief executive officer of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

"Millions of Americans who take this medication can have their next Lipitor prescription filled with the less-costly generic version," he says. "I can think of no better example to highlight what a success the generic pharmaceutical industry has been in providing access to safe, effective medicines while saving hundreds of millions of dollars for consumers and lowering our country's prescription drug bill."

Ranbaxy Laboratories won the effort to bring the first generic to market under a 2008 agreement with Pfizer. Ranbaxy also reached an agreement with Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. in which Teva will share a portion of Ranbaxy's profits from the sale of the drug. Neither Ranbaxy or Teva would disclose additional terms of their act.

And Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. has launched an authorized generic version as part of an agreement with Pfizer. Under terms of that pact, Pfizer manufactures and supplies Watson with all dosage strengths of the authorized genetic.

Pfizer will receive a share of the net sales from Watson's sales of the product. The agreement runs until November 30, 2016.

GPhA's Neas also notes the launch of generic Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) was made possible as the result of genetic companies "going to bat" for consumers by challenging the patents coveting the brand product. "It shouldn't be lost in all the news about generic Lipitor that the product is coming to market in 2011 and not 2012 or later because of a pro-competitive, pro-consumer settlement," says Neas.

Pfizer Inc., which launched the cholesterol drug in 1997 and which has expressed interest in bringing a nonprescription version of Lipitor to the market, has been seeking deals with health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and patients to match or beat the price of generic alternatives.

CVS/Caremark, a pharmacy operator as well as a PBM, is prepared to provide its customers with the generic alternative.

At Express Scripts Inc., clients have been advised to reject deals from Pfizer, asserting that they may pay more in the long run. Similarly, Medco Health Solutions Inc. is recommending that customers switch to generic versions of the drug.

Pfizer, which is establishing a direct-mail service through its Lipitor web site, has also launched an offer under which it will cover up to $50 of a copay for every Lipitor prescription through December of next year. Patients can sign up at the web site and then receive a copay card to present at their pharmacy. Among those ineligible are Massachusetts residents and those on federal- or state-sponsored drug programs.

Lipitor, the first drug to surpass $10 billion in annual sales and taken by an estimated 8.7 million Americans, generated about 25% of the innovator company's income over the last decade.

According to reports, some health plans opted to make an immediate transition to the generic version. Other insurers have decided to allow patients to remain on Lipitor (at the same price as if it were a generic) for the 180 day period in which generic competition is limited. After the six months, genetic competition is likely to increase with a subsequent fall in prices.
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Title Annotation:RX/News
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Dec 12, 2011
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