Ranbaxy Laboratories Generic Lipitor Coming, Pfizer Fights Back
As Ranbaxy Laboratories prepares to sell a generic version of the blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor in the U.S. Nov. 30, the drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, is offering deep incentives for patients not make the switch.
"We want to make sure that patients who are currently taking Lipitor and want to continue ... have the opportunity to do so," David Simmons, head of Pfizer's Established Products business, told The Associated Press. Fully one-third of patients want to keep taking Lipitor, he said.
India-based Ranbaxy and Watson Pharmaceuticals are the only two companies licensed to market the generic drugs in the U.S. for the next six months. The AP reported that Ranbaxy has had several manufacturing quality problems. As of Tuesday, it was unclear the FDA would allow the company to ship its version Nov. 30.
Ranbaxy and the FDA refused to comment to the AP, but Pfizer isn't taking any chances with Lipitor, the best-selling drug in history.
When a drug's patent lapses, it only takes a year or less for generics to take over its market share, the AP reported. Lipitor nets $11 billion a year, which counts for about a sixth of Pfizer's revenue.
The company is offering insured patients a copay card to get the drug for $4 a month, which below the $10 average copay for generic drugs, and advertising it heavily. Sign-ups have already met goals, the company reported. Pfizer is also paying pharmacies to mail out the card and counsel patients on Lipitor's effectiveness, and negotiationg deals with insurers.
Watson CEO Paul Bisaro said Pfizer will retain 40 to 45 percent of Lipitor users for the next six months.
"This is sort of the new generation of brand protection," he told the AP.