Sorry Lipitor, you're no match for generics

Pfizer received a flurry of attention toward the end of November as its blockbuster statin Lipitor came to the end of its patent protection. Many media outlets were impressed with Pfizer’s aggressive, multi-pronged plan to compete with generic versions of the drug through special deals with pharmacy benefit managers, price inducements to consumers and heavy advertising. For example, here’s what the New York Times had to say in Facing Generic Lipitor Rivals, Pfizer Battles to Protect Its Cash Cow:

The company’s aggressive strategy may offer lessons for drug makers facing similar losses of patent protection for other blockbuster drugs over the next few years, and may chart a new path for shifts between the big pharmaceutical companies and generic rivals…

With Pfizer’s plans to try to maintain brand loyalty for the next six months becoming public, industry analysts have raised the company’s earnings outlook by 2 to 4 percent, and now estimate that it could retain 40 percent of the market through next year.

Instead it looks like Lipitor is behaving just about like any other drug going generic. From the Washington Post:

Sales of cholesterol blockbuster Lipitor plunged by half barely a week after the world’s top-selling drug got its first U.S. generic competition, new data show.

That’s despite a very aggressive effort by Lipitor maker Pfizer Inc. to keep patients on its pill, which generated peak sales of $13 billion a year, through patient subsidies and big rebates to insurers.

Big pharma can only win long term by develop innovative new compounds that generate clinical and economic value. They can absolutely forget about making money in the face of generic competition.

December 20, 2011

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