This weekend, the New York Times had a terrific story on Pfizer's battle to pump life into Lipitor to stave off generic competition. Excerpt:
"It is shaping up to be the biggest shift yet to a generic drug, potentially saving the nation $2 billion a year or more in prescription costs.
And scientists and doctors say that for most of the 16 million people in America who take drugs to reduce cholesterol, the low-priced alternative will work as well as the name-brand medicine — Lipitor, which is made by Pfizer and is the nation’s most widely prescribed drug.
While Lipitor itself is not available as a generic, a very similar drug made by Merck, Zocor, lost its patent protection last year. The generic version of Zocor, simvastatin, is now much cheaper than Lipitor, leading insurers to press doctors and patients to switch.
But Pfizer is not letting its flagship drug go down without a fight.
The company has mounted a campaign that includes advertisements, lobbying efforts and a paid speaking tour by a former secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Pfizer is also promoting a study — whose findings many experts are questioning — that concluded that British patients who switched to simvastatin had more heart attacks and deaths than those who remained on Lipitor.
The Lipitor battle has become a test of the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to defend name brands, even as insurers, patients and doctors seek to whittle the nation’s $270 billion annual prescription drug bill by using generic alternatives whenever possible."
The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog quips that the ad campaign featuring artificial heart inventor Robert Jarvik makes him "nearly as ubiquitous as Verizon’s Test Man."