Κεντρική σελίδα Επίκαιρα θέματα No. 1 pharmacy drug to go generic [Tulsa World, Okla.]

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No. 1 pharmacy drug to go generic [Tulsa World, Okla.]

Nov. 18 The best-selling pharmacy drug in history will have a generic competitor at the end of the month, meaning lower prices for consumers.

Lipitor, a drug that lowers cholesterol, made $11 billion for Pfizer, the company that created it, last year. It loses patent protection Nov. 30, and a generic drug by Watson Pharmaceuticals, Atorvastatin, will become available at that time.

After another six months, any company will be able to make Atorvastatin, and the price will drop even further.

For patients, this means lower copays immediately.

Also, the drug will be covered by more insurance plans and will likely begin to be covered by Medicaid, said Laura Crismon, pharmacy manager at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa Schusterman Clinic.

"So there will be more access to it," she said.

A year from now, the drug could be available for as little as $4 for a 30-day supply, which is a dollar less than the current wholesale price for a single pill in the strongest dosage, she said.

"I think it's the best cholesterol drug there is," she said. "Just so many people haven't been able to have it because it's so expensive."

Drug patents last for 20 years, but they start at the moment of invention, so it may take eight to 12 years for the drug to hit the market.

When a patent expires and a drug goes generic, patients who take it can typically see their drug costs per day falling by about 15 percent and possibly as much as 50 percent, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The difference in retail cost is about 76 percent, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Pfizer, however, is trying to get pharmacies to continue to fill prescriptions with branded Lipitor by making arrangements with pharmacy benefit managers and giving consumers cards that discount their copay for the drug.

The copay is typically about $35, but the generic copay would be about $10, analysts speculate.

Pharmacy benefit managers process and pay prescription drug claims and administer the drug plans.

Some of them, including Express Scripts, the largest in the country, have agreed to instruct pharmacies in their network to continue using branded Lipitor, even if given a prescription for the generic drug.

One group of independent pharmacists and other detractors have said the tactic will cost employers and increase overall health care costs.

Phil Woodward, executive director of the Oklahoma Pharmacists Association, said drug companies usually make deals to postpone the market getting flooded with generics. For example, Watson Pharmaceuticals has an exclusivity contract to make the generic version of Lipitor for six months.

The price likely won't drop significantly until a few months after that contract expires, he said.

"The consumer is the one that gets bit on this thing," he said.

Lipitor is the first of several popular brand name drugs that will see their patent expire in the next year. Solodyn, which is used to treat bacterial infections, will go generic at the same time as Lipitor.

Lexapro, which treats depression, and Plavix, an anti-blood clot medicine, will go generic in the first half of next year.

Generic drugs save patients money

Average retail cost of generic drug in 2009: $39.73

Average retail cost of branded drug in 2009: $155.45

Generic Timeline

When drug patents expire and a generic drug will be available:

Lipitor, high cholesterol: November 2011

Solodyn, mild to severe acne: November 2011

Lexapro, depression and anxiety: March 2012

Seroquel, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder: March 2012

Avandia, Type 2 diabetes: March 2012

Plavix, blood clots: May 2012

Tricor, high cholesterol: July 2012

Sources: National Association of Chain Drug Stores and Medco Health Solutions

Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378

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