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Against odds, Lipitor became world’s top seller
Anti-cholesterol drug » It became the top-selling statin barely three years after it was launched..


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But Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker by revenue, has struggled to develop another runaway blockbuster. Its bid to create a next-generation statin flamed out in 2007 when it had to abandon heavily touted compound torcetrapib, after roughly $800 million in testing, because it raised heart attack and stroke risk.

In recent years, Pfizer has focused on creating other types of drugs and on another unprecedented strategy — this one for hanging onto Lipitor revenue until June, when multiple new generic Lipitor versions will join one sold by Ranbaxy Laboratories and the authorized generic from Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. Pfizer is offering patients and insurance plans big discounts and rebates, including cards giving patients a $4 monthly copayment, if they stay on Lipitor until then.

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But branded Lipitor is by no means history.

Its patent is still in force in many major foreign countries and Pfizer is promoting it heavily in emerging markets such as China.

Pfizer’s strategy to keep U.S. patients on Lipitor appears to be working a little better than some analysts expected: The number of Lipitor prescriptions filled in the first full week after generics arrived only fell by half.

Sanford Bernstein analyst Dr. Tim Anderson forecasts Lipitor sales will decline from about $11 billion in 2009 and 2010 to $3.9 billion next year and just above $3 billion in 2015.

That would make it Pfizer’s No. 3 drug that year — and possibly still among the world’s 20 top-selling drugs by revenue, as half those on the current list also will have generic competition by then.




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