Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company, sells the world’s biggest brand name drug, Lipitor. According to those busy insiders at Fierce Pharma, this mega-blockbuster cholesterol drug won’t really face marketplace competition until 2011, even though one of the drug’s patents expires this year. And although Pfizer earned $11.4 billion in Lipitor sales last year, that total was a big drop compared to 2008’s $12.4 billion.
After a number of years in the marketplace (usually between 7-12 years in the U.S. and up to 20 years in Canada), a brand name drug’s exclusive patent protection expires, thus opening the market to competition from cheaper generic forms of the same drug. And when generic drugs become available, the market competition often leads to much lower prices for both the original brand name drug and the generics.
Pfizer has already concluded a deal with the generic drug manufacturer Ranbaxy in India, in which Ranbaxy can start selling its generic version of Lipitor to Americans in November 2011.* See news on this plan below.
If you’re a drug giant like Pfizer, how do you replace billions of dollars in sales income from a blockbuster like Lipitor once it goes off-patent?
The company currently has 118 new drug programs in Phase 1 trials through registration, compared to 133 programs at its last pipeline update in January, 2010. The current pipeline includes 26 programs in Phase 3 and nine programs in registration, as well as 27 biologics and four vaccines across all phases of development.
Stock market analysts have been closely watching Pfizer, which has already lost patent protection for Lipitor in Canada this year. Since taking over Wyeth Pharmaceuticals last year, Pfizer plans changes for the company including closing eight of Pfizer’s plants and a global reduction of about 6,000 jobs over the next several years. The company will also cut back operations at six other plants.
Find out more about Lipitor and the other nine blockbusters that are soon losing their drug patent protection.
* NEWS UPDATE November 11, 2011 – The New York Times has reported that the biggest introduction of a generic drug in pharmaceutical history is being met with tough business strategies by Pfizer and pharmacy benefit companies. Pfizer has agreed to large sales discounts for benefit managers designed to block the use of generic versions of Lipitor by instructing pharmacists to substitute brand name Lipitor for any doctor’s prescription for its generic replacement, at least until next spring.