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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.

 

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

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Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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