Patients about to save money as Lipitor goes off patent

Lipitor

Lipitor is off-patent, and cheaper generics will soon be available. Photo Credit: Panthro/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Lipitor, the best-selling prescription drug in the world, recently went “off patent” as the copyright on the drug has expired. Patients taking the drug can expect to save a lot of money as it and other brand-name drugs go generic.

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Best selling drug of all time loses copyright

Patents and copyrights for pharmaceutical drugs don’t work like for other things. Unlike a book or a recording they don’t lose their copyright years after the death of the inventor, they lose it after a decade or so.

The world’s best-selling drug, Pfizer’s Lipitor, is officially “off-patent” as of Nov. 30, according to Reuters, meaning generic versions of the drug can be made and sold by generic drug firms. Lipitor has been responsible for about $13 billion in sales per year, which according to the CIA World FactBook is more than the Gross Domestic Product of Iceland. Generic drug companies are expected to start shipping their versions of the drug, which goes by the chemical name atorvastatin.

Generic Now available

A generic version of the drug by Watson Pharmaceuticals, according to the Wall Street Journal, starts shipping to pharmacies on Wednesday, Nov. 30. Watson is producing its generic atorvastatin in a partnership with Pfizer, which will receive a share of sales from Watson.

Watson’s atorvastatin is projected to cost 50 percent less than brand-name Lipitor, though Pfizer is currently offering incentives customers to keep them on the brand-name version of the drug. Pfizer is offering mail-order service and coupons that lower monthly co-pays to $4.

According to Reuters, the price of generic versions of Lipitor is projected to be 20 to 30 percent lower than the brand-name drug during the next six months. Pharmaceutical companies have a six-month window of “semi-exclusivity,” where only a limited number of generic versions can enter the market, after which it is open season. According to USA Today, the price of the generic version will be up to 80 percent lower than that of the brand name within a year.

Other generic drug makers, such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries in Israel and Ranbaxy Laboratories in India, haven’t announced their own generic atorvastatin yet.

Other drugs soon to go generic

A few other drugs are slated to go off-patent for 2012. According to ABC, anti-clotting medication Plavix will lose its patent in May of 2012. A month supply of brand-name Plaivx currently costs about $162. In the spring, AstraZeneca’s anti-psychotic Seroquel will lose its patent. In August of 2012, Takeda’s Type 2 Diabetes medication Actos, Merck’s astma/allergy medication Singulair and Amgen’s psoriasis and rheumatoid arthiritis drug Enbrel will all go off-patent and generics will enter the marketplace.

Generic drugs, according to ABC, account for 63 percent or more of prescriptions and are usually cheaper by 71 percent or more than brand-name versions of the same medications.

Sources

Reuters

Wall Street Journal

USA Today

ABC

CIA World Factbook

ABC

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