TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Sales of Lipitor, the top-selling drug in history, have leveled off after a steep plunge following the start of U.S. generic competition.
New figures from data firm IMS Health show that at the end of December, sales of Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor were at just above 37 percent market share.
Two new generic versions came on the market at the beginning of December, and in the first full week of the month they had siphoned off a combined 59 percent of sales. By the last week of December, atorvastatin pills from Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. and the authorized generic from Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. only picked up another 4 percent between them.
That's because Pfizer is fighting hard to retain sales, with big discounts to patients and insurers.
Lipitor lost U.S. patent protection on Nov. 30.
Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, has been offering patients discount cards that give them a $4 copayment — less than the copay for all but the most popular generics — if they keep taking Lipitor rather than defecting to a cheaper generic version.
New York-based Pfizer also has been giving insurance plans that agree to only cover brand-name Lipitor for the time being the difference between what they had been paying for the brand and what they would pay for cheaper generics.
The unprecedented strategy, closely watched in the industry, appears to be paying off. Normally, sales of a brand name drug continue to fall over the weeks and months after the start of generic competition.
"It's been pretty stable after the first few weeks," Michael Kleinrock, research director at the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, told The Associated Press, adding, "It's still early days."
Because the arrival of generics brought a chance for health insurers, plan sponsors and patients to save significant money, insurers had prepared long ago to automatically switch all their patients on Lipitor to generics. Pfizer's strategy upended that.