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UK statin prescribing set for 'mass shift' to generic Lipitor

After May patent loss for Pfizer blockbuster generic atorvastatin will reportedly become GPs' statin of choice

UK statin prescribing is reportedly set for a mass shift from simvastatin to generic versions of Lipitor (atorvastatin) after Pfizer's blockbuster loses patent protection in the country in May.

When this happens GPs will be enrolled in schemes to switch patients en masse to atorvastatin, a plan that was prompted by new analysis on statin pricing, according to Pulse.

The doctors' magazine says research from Keele University indicates the price of Lipitor could fall by as much to 95 per cent after it loses patent protection in May, 2012.

The current annual cost of Lipitor is £32,120 per 100 patients, although this could drop to £1,606 per 100 patients if Lipitor faces the same fall in cost as Merck & Co's Zocor (simvastatin) after it went off-patent in 2004.

However, any switch is unlikely to be immediate, with Zocor taking six years to fall to its current price. Keele University's paper, Prescribing Information to support QIPP, suggests the price of Lipitor is "likely to be clearer by the October 2012 Drug Tariff update".

As with the rest of Europe, the UK is facing increasing cost-saving measures in its healthcare system, and it is likely general practitioners will be encouraged to take advantage of the drastic drop in price when it occurs.

“Commissioners, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Medicines Management teams will be prioritising their activities and will have to seriously review atorvastatin prescribing in light of the likely windfall savings that the loss of patent will generate,” the Keele Univeristy researchers said.

Pfizer has been campaigning in the UK to keep doctors prescribing Lipitor instead of the cheaper simvastatin ahead of its patent expiry.

Its included this video, launched in January, 2012, which argues doctors should keep their patients on Lipitor instead of switching to simvastatin, saying Lipitor's benefits were greater and the drug would soon be available at a reduced cost in any case. The price cut will be forced by the impending introduction of generic atorvastatin.

23rd February 2012

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