Health|December 6, 2011 1:58 PM

Update: Generic Lipitor hits shelves; price drop slow

The price of the cholesterol-reducing medicine Lipitor -- generic name atorvastatin -- is about to plummet, saving Coloradans billions.

Boxes of generic Lipitor have begun arriving at Colorado pharmacies, but the expected billions of dollars of savings on the world’s best-selling drug are coming only slowly.

Inventor Pfizer lost its patent on the drug on Nov. 30, allowing the sale of two versions of the generic brand – called atorvistatin. The medicine is used to reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure. An estimated 1 million Coloradans currently take cholesterol-reducing medication.

A spot check of a variety of pharmacies around Colorado showed consumers can now buy the generic for 8 percent to 24 percent less than the brand-name version of the medication. Brand-name
Lipitor costs more than $100 a month, depending on the dosage.

The spot check found prices on the brand name and generic now vary dramatically, by as much as $150 on a two-month prescription for the drug.

Pharmacist John Teronde, of Wheat Ridge Pharmacy, advises customers to be patient.

“You’re not going to get a bargain right now,” he said. “It’s coming. But not right away.”

So far, only two companies may sell the generic version of the drug. They are Watkins, under contract with Pfizer, and Ranbaxy, a company based in India that is contracting with a U.S. manufacturer.

In six months, other companies will be able to offer their own version. That is when the price should drop much further under competitive pressure, with some experts saying patients should expect to pay as little as $5 a month for their prescriptions.

For now, “people with insurance will see the biggest savings for atorvistatin in their co-pays,” Teronde said. The average co-pay for a brand name drug among his customers ranges from $40 to $50. Co-pays on generics are typically are $15 to $20.

Also, since losing the patent, Pfizer has been offering a coupon cutting the insurance co-pay on its brand-name Lipitor to just $4.

This is an update to a previous story: Price of cholesterol drug expected to plunge, saving billions of dollars.

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