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Lipitor vs. generics: which is for you?

February 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Lipitor is the number-one-selling prescription drug in the world. Its maker, Pfizer, spends millions of dollars in marketing and advertisements, many of which have featured Dr. Robert Jarvik. And while the company has now decided not to use Dr. Jarvik, you've probably already seen the compelling ads that may leave some thinking Lipitor is the best cholesterol drug for them. But what are the alternatives? And could they be a better choice for you?Pfizer, the maker of Lipitor, spent well over $100 million on ads in the first nine months of 2007. Gayle Williams, Consumer Reports' deputy health editor, says that's because statins are a multi-billion-dollar business.

"Around 20 million Americans take statins to lower their cholesterol. Three of these are available as generics, and Pfizer wants to hang on to its market share," said Williams.

The three generic statins - Simvastatin, Pravastatin, and Lovastatin - cost far less.

"Lipitor is a highly effective drug, and it's one good choice for people who have high levels of LDL cholesterol, or who've had a heart attack, or who have acute coronary syndrome," said Williams. "However, the vast majority of people can get the same protection from a generic statin at less than half the cost."

And although Lipitor's Web site makes a point of saying there is "no generic form of Lipitor," there will be in two years when its patent expires. No doubt that's another reason Pfizer is spending big bucks now to drill its brand name into your head.

Experts point out that generic drugs are essentially the chemical twins of brand name drugs whose patents have expired.

Click here for more information about cost-saving statins.


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