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Posted on Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

Pfizer pressuring pharmacists to continue selling Lipitor after patent expires

By Nathan Bomey

Global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. is pressuring pharmacists to continue selling cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor instead of switching to generic alternatives after Lipitor's patent expires Dec. 1, according to a report by the New York Times.

Lipitor, the best selling drug in the world, was invented by Ann Arbor scientists in the 1980s.

Now, Pfizer is urging pharmacists to "block prescriptions for a generic version of Pfizer’s Lipitor" in exchange for discounts on the name-brand drug, the Times reported.

"A pharmacy group and an independent expert say the tactic will benefit Pfizer and benefit managers at the expense of employers and taxpayers, who may end up paying more than they should for the drug," according to the Times.

The expiration of Lipitor's patent — a moment that's been anticipated for years — is blamed for many of the job cuts and restructuring Pfizer has pursued over the last couple years.

The company even cut loose Lipitor co-discoverer and Ann Arbor entrepreneur Roger Newton when it shut down its 174-acre Ann Arbor research campus in 2008. Newton later licensed intellectual property from Pfizer and restarted Esperion Therapeutics, which Pfizer had shut down after paying $1.3 billion to acquire it in 2004.

Read the full New York Times story here.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


David Briegel

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 1:29 a.m.

What would one expect from a drug pusher?


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 6:06 a.m.

There ought to be a law


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

I find it ironic that now they want to start testing nine year olds cholesterol ,the same time this is happening.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 10:19 p.m.

Pfizer, the same company that was fined some $400M for improper off-label marketing (for conditions no proper double-blind studies had been done for) of Neurontin. The Pfizer buyout of Ann Arbor-based Parke-Davis in 1999 was in part to take advantage of this block buster drug that gained initial approval for market in 1993 as I recall. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> A likely downfall that caused Pfizer's closing of their Ann Arbor and New York (and at least consolidation of other locations) was too much hope for another block buster drug like Lipotor or Neurontin that never materialized.... These kinds of practices are probably not that much different from other major pharmaceutical companies though....

Alicia M

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

Of course there's always the option of getting off the meds altogether (China Study or Forks Over Knives, anyone?), and that's what Pfizer (and the other pharma companies) really don't want anyone to consider.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

It used to be called conspiracy in restraint of trade, before enforcing the anti-trust laws became unfashionable.

Ron Granger

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:20 p.m.

This should be an anti-trust violation.

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:42 p.m.

Many of those vouchers only work for patients who have a specific drug plan with a specific insurer. For someone who is self-employed, that's not going to happen. Physicians complain, and rightfully so, that the government should not step in and decide who gets what treatment. But they're hypocrites if they maintain a relationship with the drug companies. Any time you walk into a doctor's office and see the walls lit up like billboards at a NASCAR race, doctor integrity dies just a little bit.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

This has nothing to d with the government doing anything. It is Pfizer gaming the system with private insurers.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:30 p.m.

This tactic is certainly nothing new in the world of pharmacy. When a patent is about to expire and a generic equivalent is about to launch, companies often offer vouchers that can lower the cost or copay for patients who use that product, while the drug-company holds up the release of any generic in court. However, one thing that Pfizer and pharmacists cannot control, is the tendency of insurances to either drop coverage or require prior-authorization of medications that now have a less-expensive generic equivalent or have been approved for over-the counter sales (I'm sure many of you have experienced this first-hand with the release of Allegra otc, or when products like Zocor or Norvasc lost their patents). Even though insurances may have paid for Lipitor for years, I will not be surprised at all if the third parties balk at paying for it once a generic is available if it means a lower cost to the insurance companies. For those who are in need of a &quot;statin&quot; drug to help control their lipid levels, there are already less-expensive medications in the same class as Lipitor available (Simvastatin, Pravastatin, Lovastatin). Ask your physician or pharmacist about your options.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:09 a.m.

squidlover's trial-and-error experience was similar to mine; but for what it's worth, Lipitor gave me the *least* trouble with leg pain, and by far the best results on the lipid levels. (And after a few years on &quot;medium&quot;, I've been able to switch to lowest dose and maintain the effects.) I do look forward to, and will insist on, a generic equivalent when it's available.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 7:32 p.m.

Yes, Lola. You are correct about the 2 different classes of statin drugs. However, the fluvastatin and rosuvastatin in the water-soluble class are not yet available as a generic. Also, my experience with these meds regarding muscle-soreness and adverse effects suggest that many times finding the best one is simply trial-and-error, or also dependent upon what other medications that patient may be taking concurrently that could increase the risk of such adverse effects.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

&quot;there are already less-expensive medications in the same class as Lipitor available (Simvastatin, Pravastatin, Lovastatin)&quot; Actually these statins are NOT all in the same class. There are 2 classes of statins, water-soluble and fat-soluble. Lipitor is a fat-soluble statin and more likely to cause muscle problems that water-soluble statins because they do not penetrate muscle tissue the way fat-soluble statins do. Fat-soluble statins include lovastatin, simvastatin and atorvastatin. Water-soluble statins include pravastatin, fluvastatin and rosuvastatin.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Thanks, Nathan. This is an important topic for a lot of patients.

Nathan Bomey

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

Great insight, thanks for posting!