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Michigan Based Retail Pharmacy, Meijer, Offers Generic Cholesterol Reducing Prescription Drug, Lipitor, For Free

September 04, 2012 By: Nadia Category: Cholesterol, Free Prescriptions, HealthCare, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: Drugstore News, 9.4.12 – By Alaric Dearment

In what could symbolize the so-called “patent cliff” that an executive from healthcare market research firm IMS Health spoke of at a recent trade show, a regional mass merchandise chain is taking what used to be the world’s top-selling drug and giving it away for free.

Meijer announced Tuesday that it would offer generic versions of Pfizer’s cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) for free at all of its 199 pharmacies, saying it would be the first retailer in the Midwest to offer such a program. The program is the fourth free-drug program offered by the retailer over the last six years.

“We’re pleased to announce that our customers will now be able to fill their generic cholesterol-lowering atorvastatin calcium prescriptions for free in all of our pharmacies,” co-chairman Hank Meijer said. “In keeping with our commitment to provide low-cost solutions for the families we serve, the free cholesterol-lowering medication program is another way to help the customers who rely on our pharmacies.”

Before it lost patent protection, in November 2011, Lipitor had sales exceeding $7 billion per year in the United States. Ranbaxy Labs was the first to launch a generic version when the drug’s patents expired, and Ranbaxy’s own market-exclusivity period expired in May of this year. At the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Pharmacy and Technology Conference last month, IMS VP industry relations Doug Long said during a presentation that “We’re in the teeth of the patent cliff,” which refers to a period taking place over the next few years when a wave of expirations of several top-selling drugs’ patents will occur, eventually leaving many therapeutic indications such as cholesterol heavily commoditized and dominated by multiple generics.

“This initiative will have a huge impact because the cost of pharmaceuticals is frequently a barrier to getting appropriate treatment,” West Michigan Heart cardiologist and Spectrum Health Meijer Heart Center Cardiac Catheterization Labs director David Wohns said. “The biggest way to reduce the risk of heart disease comes from treating cholesterol. To have that drug available for free has the ability to impact countless lives.”

Lipitor Goes Generic, As Good as Crestor, But Pfizer Markets to Extend Brand Revenues

December 12, 2011 By: Nadia Category: Cholesterol, HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: USA Today, 11/15/2011

On November 30, 2011, the cholesterol medication Lipitor (atorvastatin) converted to generic status. For the first six months, two companies, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Ranbaxy Laboratories, Ltd., will produce the generic. After May 2012, several generic manufacturers are expected to enter the market.

Pfizer Inc., the maker of Lipitor is marketing hard for people to keep buying its brand-name version for the next 6 months. Pfizer is offering

  • patients a discount card to get Lipitor for $4 a month, and
  • rebates to insurance companies that cover Lipitor for the next 6 months.

This action by Pfizer will result in the costs of Lipitor being below generic prices and Pfizer will get 70% of the proceeds from one of the two versions sold now.

USA Today reported, that large doses of Lipitor and Crestor did about equally well according to a study of 1,385 patients presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando. Crestor, made by AstraZeneca, “will be the last major statin not on patent,” said Cam Patterson, chief of cardiology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the study. “The market for Crestor will go close to zero.”

Study findings

At the end of the two-year study,

  • Two-thirds of patients had less plaque in their arteries.
  • Both statins shrunk the size of plaque in the coronary artery by about 1%.
  • Patients on Crestor had a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level of 63 milligrams per deciliter, while those who took Lipitor had a level of 70.
  • Patients on Crestor had a high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level of 50 milligrams per deciliter, compared to 49 for those who took Lipitor.

Nehal Mehta, a cardiologist with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, says there’s no way to know if such a small change actually matters, in terms of preventing heart attacks and saving lives. And relatively few patients would even benefit that much. Only about 20% of patients are taking such high doses — 40 milligrams daily of Crestor or 80 milligrams daily of Lipitor, says Mehta, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Such minor differences in cholesterol levels are unlikely to affect heart disease risk, Patterson says. “The bottom line is that there isn’t a difference” between drugs,” he says. “You should make your decision on other factors, like which one is least expensive.”

About Lipitor and Crestor

Cholesterol medications are the leading class of prescription drugs in the USA, with 255 million prescriptions a year. Lipitor — the country’s best-selling drug, with sales of $7.2 billion last year — will be available as a generic Dec. 1, at a fraction of its current cost. Patterson says there will be no reason for insurance plans to pay for Crestor — the eighth-leading drug in the USA, with $3.8 billion in annual sales. In fact, by next month, nearly all statins will be available generically. Generics now account for 78% of all retail prescriptions sold, according to IMS Health.

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