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Generic versions of Lipitor coming to market

Cholesterol medication Lipitor, one of the best-selling drugs in history, will soon be available as a generic.

November 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Lipitor is one of the best-selling drugs in history. Now the blockbuster cholesterol medication will be available as a generic.

In a first-of-its-kind marketing move, Lipitor-manufacturer Pfizer wants to do all it can to make sure heart patients continue to buy their prescription brand. They're offering discount incentives to make the original drug competitive with new generic forms.

Lydia Espinoza of Mission Hills has been using Lipitor for years. She's excited she can save money on generic forms. But now Pfizer, the maker of Lipitor, will make it affordable for her to stay on her old prescription if she prefers.

At least for the next six months, Pfizer will offer discounts and incentives for patients and insurers to make the brand-name drug competitive and possibly even cheaper than generic versions.

Huntington Hospital's Dr. Vyshali Rao says this move feeds into many concerns patients have about generic drugs. Consumers tend to have a psychological preference for brand-name drugs because they think they're better. But Dr. Rao says they produce the exact same results in the human body.

"The chemical makeup of the drug is the same," said Rao. "So it will still lower your LDL cholesterol, still raise your HDL cholesterol to the same efficacy that it did when it was Lipitor."

Lydia used to pay a high co pay for Lipitor and she's glad the generics have spurred a price cutting competition.

"I'm happy about it because the cost of medication is extremely high, even when you do have insurance," said Lydia.

Rao often has to remind patients that generics are just as good as the brand names, but often the decision is based on preference.

Rao says the lower-priced version of brand name Lipitor just gives people more options.

"A lot of people can't afford their medications, and so the fact that it's going generic will be of tremendous benefit to a majority of my patients," said Rao.

Pfizer's strategy includes offering insured patients a discount card to get Lipitor for $4 a month.

The Food and Drug Administration says approved generic drugs must have the same high quality and strength as the brand-name versions.

The generic manufacturing and packaging sites also have to pass the same quality control standards as those of brand-name drugs.