Generic versions of Lipitor are now available. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )
Lipitor, the top-selling drug that lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) will cease being Pfizer's cash cow as of Wednesday.
The brand-name drug will still be available, but now patients can ask for the less-expensive generic version, called atorvastin. Lipitor generated more than $100 billion in revenue for Pfizer since it was approved in 1997.
Patients need not fear that generic atorvastatin will be an inferior medication. According a 2010 study in the journal Clinical Therapeutics, patients receiving Lipitor in an eight-week study had a 48% reduction in LDL cholesterol compared to a 44% reduction among people taking the generic. The difference is not statistically significant.
Lipitor costs patients about $160 per month while generic statins typically cost about $10 per month. It's not clear yet, however, what generic versions of the medication will cost.
The Food and Drug Administration has more information.
Lipitor is the first in a surge of blockbuster medications that will come off patent in the coming year, according to a article in the journal Managed Care. In 2012, patents will expire on Diovan, Lexapro, Actos, Singulair, Seroquel and Plavix.
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