As many times as I have had to have a new prescription lately, I can not recall even one time that I was actually given the name brand drug that the doctor actually prescribed for me. For me it is without question that if I am able to obtain the same medication at a fraction of the cost, that I would jump at the opportunity. And, apparently I am not the only one.
According to one article found at Forbes.com nearly 80 percent of all prescriptions in the U.S. are filled with generics. But, why wouldn’t we use a generic? Technically, a generic version of the drug must contain the same active ingredients as the original formulation, and when it comes to money, I don’t know anyone that would willing pay more for something you can easily obtain cheaper.
But, it looks like it may get even worst for some major pharmaceutical companies when 10 major drugs go off patent in 2012. And, when a drug goes off patent, a flood gate, so to speak is opened up, and generic versions are allowed in. For example, late last month, the most popular drug in history, Lipitor, went off patent, allowing a generic version of the cholesterol-lowering drug to enter the market and be sold at lower prices.
Because the flood gate is now open, Pfizer, the maker of the drug, is now having to think outside the box and figure out a way to keep people on their drug. Therefore, they have developed a program to allow people to stay on Lipitor, even as more competitors prepare to enter the market.
Their new program called, “Lipitor For You” allows patients to sign up to get a $4 co-pay card that will allow them to get their prescription filled at generic prices through the company’s new program. They can then have their prescription filled at a local participating pharmacy, or they can get the medicine delivered by mail.
“They are setting up a Pfizer pharmacy, if you will,” said Everett Neville, vice president of pharmaceutical strategy and contracting at Express Scripts., one of the nation’s biggest pharmacy benefit managers. That is something that no pharmaceutical company “has done to date,” he said.
In the U.S., the company is offering to sell Lipitor at generic prices to health plans and to pharmacies and pharmaceutical distributors who agree to fill prescriptions with its product instead of an unbranded version. They say the effort is part of a broader push by Pfizer to keep patients on the brand-name drug.
The blockbuster medicine generated tens of billions of dollars in revenue for Pfizer over its patent life, boosting resources available to invest in research into the next generation of new drugs.
“Previously, Big Pharma has tended to walk away” from top-selling drugs once they lose patent protection, Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read said in an interview. “Now, we have a flat-out different culture.”
Medco Health Solutions Inc., which manages the benefits for 60 million Americans, says it plans to sell brand-name Lipitor at generic prices to the million-plus customers in its mail-order program. Another pharmacy benefit manager, Catalyst Rx, has told pharmacists that brand-name Lipitor will function as the generic during the next six months, with a generic’s $10 co-pay.
I just wonder though, is this a genuine act of kindness in giving back to patients, or a bold move to continue to create revenue for the company? Although I like the idea of getting a name brand drug at a generic price, unfortunately, I am still inclined to believe the latter of the two.