FAQ: Generic Lipitor
Lipitor Goes Generic: What It Means for You
Can I still get brand-name Lipitor? continued...
What will happen after May 2012, however, is anybody's guess. Until then, however, Pfizer is making brand-name Lipitor very attractive.
In a controversial move, the company made a deal with pharmaceutical benefit managers -- the middlemen between pharmacies and payers (insurance companies and Medicare).
In return for getting Lipitor at a discount, the companies would offer the brand-name drug for about a $10 co-payment. That's the typical co-payment for a generic drug. Co-pays for brand-name Lipitor currently run about $25 or more. The downside: Some participating pharmacies will not offer generic Lipitor.
But consumers can do even better than that. Pfizer is offering a "Lipitor for You" program that lets qualified patients get the drug for as little as $4 per month. The offer is good through Dec. 31, 2012. It's not available to people who get their drugs through federal or state insurance programs -- including Medicare and Medicaid -- or whose private insurance pays the full cost of their medicines.
Even so, Santa of Consumer Reports warns patients to keep an eye on the pharmaceutical giant.
"Pfizer has made $100 billion on Lipitor. It has received a very great reward for its work developing and marketing the drug," he says. "Now the consumers are supposed to get the benefit. Let us all hope this happens. If it does not, it says something about our system."
How much will generic Lipitor cost?
Online pharmacies already are offering generic Lipitor. One is selling a 30-day supply of the 40 mg atorvastatin pills for $99.
Of course, people with health insurance that covers prescription drugs will pay much less. And for at least the rest of the year, those in the "Lipitor for You" program will pay even less.
Should I switch to another statin drug?
Maybe. Lipitor didn't get to be the best-selling prescription drug of all time without what Santa calls "brilliant marketing."
"Lipitor has been marketed so heavily, this may be a good time to ask your doctor about the best new evidence about statins," Santa says. "For example, if you are a woman at low risk of heart disease and only have a small elevation in LDL cholesterol, the evidence does not support lifetime treatment with statin drugs."
Cardiologist Robert Ostfeld, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, New York, agrees.
"Whether to continue to take statin drugs should be regularly assessed by one's doctor," Ostfeld tells WebMD. "Ideally one should get to one's cholesterol goal by healthy lifestyle. So it is possible for you to reduce your statin dose or even eliminate need for the drug by eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise."
On the other hand, your doctor might find you need to increase your statin dose or even switch to a more potent statin.