(RxWiki News) Pharmaceutical company Pfizer loses patent rights to its popular cholesterol lowering medication Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) this week. The news means patients will be able to begin purchasing a less-expensive generic version by Thursday.
With sales of $7.2 billion last year and 3.3 million patients taking the drug, Lipitor remains a top selling medication. For most patients switching to the generic form means their co-pay will drop from $25 to $10, though individual health plan co-pays can vary.
"Ask a pharmacist about the benefits of going generic."
Hoping to retain market share as the generic version enters the market, Pfizer already has announced plans to offer $4 co-pay cards and has partnered with health insurance plans to offer mail order prescriptions of Lipitor. The company also previously announced plans to unveil an over-the-counter version of Lipitor.
The drug maker is urging patients to continue purchasing the brand name drug by touting its proven results and telling consumers the generic version may not offer the same cholesterol-lowering benefits. However, outside of a slightly different looking pill, the generic version will offer the same benefits.
Beginning Thursday Indian company Ranbaxy Labs will begin selling the generic version, having secured six months of exclusive generic production of the medication.
In 2012 Watson Pharmaceuticals also will begin producing an authorized generic version through a supply agreement with Pfizer, which will manufacture and sell the generic tablets to Watson for a five-year period.
When taken with diet and exercise, Pfizer said that Lipitor can lower cholesterol by up to 60 percent. The drug also helps prevent heart attacks and strokes.