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Pfizer moves to defend Lipitor sales.

NEW YORK -- Pfizer Inc. didn't take a passive position when its blockbuster cholesterol-lowering medicine Lipitor began encountering generic competition last fall.

The pharmaceutical giant devised discounts and incentives for patients, insurers and companies that process Lipitor prescriptions, and in many cases those moves have made the branded drug about as cheap as or cheaper than much of its generic competition. The company also has spent tens of millions of dollars on marketing to keep patients on Lipitor.

When a drug's patent ends, generic rivals typically seize most of its market share in a year or less as the original maker shifts its focus to its newer products. Lipitor reached sales of about $13 billion, and the product still brings in nearly $11 billion a year, or about a sixth of Pfizer's revenue.

The blockbuster is facing competition from generic drugs

Without any new blockbusters on the way to fill that looming financial gulf, Pfizer quickly made an unprecedented push to maintain Lipitor's revenue as long as possible.

In a potential omen for the generic drug industry, Pfizer's strategy could become the new norm as most other drug manufacturers also face generic competition to their top-selling medicines and lack replacement products.

Usually, brand-name drugs initially confront one or two generic competitors, which are typically paced about 25% lower than the branded medicine.

Months later, after other generic drug manufacturers compete for the same product, the price of that medication drops dramatically.

One of Pfizer's efforts to counter generic Lipitor has been to offer insured patients a discount card to obtain Lipitor for $4 a month, a pace far below the $25 average co-payment for a preferred brand-name drug and below the $10 average copay for a generic drug. Pfizer has been promoting this initiative through extensive advertising, information distributed at doctors' offices and online at

Pfizer has also been paying pharmacies to mail Lipitor patients offers for the $4 co-pay and to counsel them that Lipitor lowers bad cholesterol.

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Title Annotation:RX: RETAIL PHARMACY: Generic Drug Report
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Jan 16, 2012
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