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Lipitor goes generic! Now what?

by on January 12, 2012

According to a Nov. 29 story in the Wall Street Journal, Lipitor is the biggest-selling prescription drug of all time and 8.7 million Americans take Lipitor for high cholesterol. With respect to AEP, Medco Health (AEP’s pharmacy vendor) indicates that over 3,600 employees, retirees or eligible family members currently take Lipitor. Medco is in the process of sending an informational letter to all AEP employees who are users of Lipitor. 

On November 30, 2011, Lipitor’s patent expired, making way for pharmaceutical companies to offer a generic version. One of the first companies to do this is Ranbaxy and they have now launched atorvastatin, the generic of Lipitor. The generic version has been determined by the Food and Drug Administration to contain the same active ingredients as brand-name Lipitor and to be as safe and effective, but will be available at a lower cost.

Generics must contain the same key ingredients and prove to be equivalent in order to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Here are some frequently asked questions from Medco about the switch:

Q: I recently got my prescription for Lipitor and the bottle states that I got a generic and my co-pay was a generic co-pay. But when I opened the bottle, I found the same Lipitor tablets I have always received. Why is this?

A: If you use Medco’s mail-order pharmacy, it’s possible your generic Lipitor prescription may be filled with brand-name Lipitor pills. In this case, Medco is dispensing Lipitor as the generic and charging you the generic co-payment. Using a brand drug as the generic is known as a “house generic.”

Prescriptions that include “Dispense As Written” and indicate only a brand medication may be dispensed will be dispensed as a brand at the nonpreferred brand co-insurance percentage as dictated by the AEP plan.

Q: Will I be notified that my prescription for Lipitor will be changed to a generic?

A: Yes, Medco will be notifying all Lipitor users under the AEP prescription drug plan about these changes.

Q: According to the Medco Health website, the cost of a 30-day supply of Lipitor at retail under the AEP plan is not much more than the generic, atorvastatin. I thought generic drugs were substantially less expensive than brand-name drugs. What gives?

A. When patent protection ends for a brand drug, in most cases one manufacturer (in this case Ranbaxy) is awarded a six-month exclusive right to produce the generic form of that particular brand drug. During the exclusivity period (first six months) for atorvastatin, the price of the single source generic will be less than the brand, but not significantly. Once more generic manufacturers enter the marketplace, the price will begin dropping over time.

Q: How can I get more information?

A: For questions about Lipitor, its generic version or your prescription drug plan, call Medco at 1-800-841-3045.

From → Benefits

One Comment
  1. Now if only the makers of Crestor would do the same….

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