Our last post highlighted the end-of-the-month release of the long-awaited generic version of Lipitor, the most popular cholesterol-lowering drug in America. Brand-name Lipitor, manufactured by drug giant Pfizer, has been one of the key contributors to American’s high drug bills for the past 15 years. A generic version will mean massive savings for some and basic affordability for many.
Last week, however, the New York Times shared that Pfizer (unsurprisingly) wants to block access to that affordable generic. Pfizer is going to offer “large discounts for benefit managers that block the use of generic versions of Lipitor” – “When patients submit a prescription for a generic version of Lipitor, they are to be given Lipitor instead.” So, those covered by the benefit managers who accept the discount will end up paying the same high co-pay, despite the availability of a lower priced drug!
These tactics by the largest drug manufacturer to keep drug prices higher are disappointing but not surprising. After all, in addition to lobbying the U.S. government to prevent safe personal drug importation, it funds programs to scare Americans away from buying its own medication at a lower price from Canada and other countries.
Pfizer’s latest move seems to only affect Americans with health insurance who, under the Pfizer/benefit manager deal, would pay $25 monthly co-pays (instead of $10 per month) – that’s $75 for a three month supply. That’s a stark contrast to Americans without health insurance who can pay $535.00 at a local CVS in New York City. By comparing prices of verified online pharmacies at PharmacyChecker.com, the uninsured may at least knock their monthly brand name Lipitor costs to $85.70.
Fortunately, due to the economics of generic drug competition, generic Lipitor prices will eventually offer great savings to the uninsured and we’ll be keeping you updated as those new products come to market.