For those of you paying big bucks for your cholesterol medication Lipitor: you have an early Christmas present. Finally, atorvastatin, a generic alternative to Lipitor, has been shipped! On November 30, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two generic versions of the cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor (atorvastatin), made by Ranbaxy Laboratories and Watson Pharmaceuticals. Atorvastatin is a cholesterol medication known as a statin, similar to the already available generic simvastatin and the brand name drug Crestor.
Atorvastatin is used along with a low-fat diet to reduce the “bad” cholesterol (the LDL cholesterol) and free fatty acids (triglycerides) in the blood. Atorvastatin lowers the risk for heart attack, stroke, and chest pain in patients with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease such as age, smoking, high blood pressure, or family history of early heart disease.
Is atorvastatin equivalent to Lipitor? Yes, and what is interesting is that Pfizer, the maker of Lipitor, has an exclusive supply and distribution agreement with Watson Pharmaceuticals. This means that Pfizer manufactures and supplies Watson with all dosage strengths of atorvastatin.
Ranbaxy Laboratories has gained approval to make generic atorvastatin tablets in 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg strengths.
Generic atorvastatin began shipping November 30th, so discuss changing to the generic version with your doctor.
Lipitor and atorvastatin should be available at most pharmacies. Lipitor 10 mg typically ranges in cost from $115 to $200 for a 30-day supply, while atorvastatin 10 mg should be around $80. Lipitor is covered by some insurance plans; it is typically a Tier 2 or Tier 3 drug, meaning you’ll likely pay your middle to maximum copay, or full price. This may change with the introduction of atorvastatin. Generic atorvastatin will likely be covered by insurance as a Tier 1 drug, meaning you’ll pay your minimum copay.
Pfizer also offers a Lipitor co-pay card, which reduces payments by $50 per month, to as low as $4. More information can be found here.