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Patent Expires On Best Selling Drug of All Time 491

Posted by samzenpus
from the low-cholesterol-for-everyone dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The U.S. patent has just expired on Lipitor, the best-selling drug of all time, as the first generic versions go on sale, marking the end of a brand that has dominated the drug industry, lowered the cholesterol of tens of millions of patients, and generated $10.7 billion last year in annual sales. But drug manufacturer Pfizer, dependent on Lipitor for almost one-fifth of the company's revenue, does not intend to go down without a fight. Pfizer is employing unprecedented tactics to hold onto as many Lipitor prescriptions as it can with an aggressive marketing plan and forging deals with insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and patients to meet or beat the price of its generic replacements because even at the lower price, Pfizer has a huge profit margin because of the relatively low cost of materials for Lipitor. Some deals require pharmacies to reject prescriptions for low-cost generics and substitute a discounted name-brand Lipitor while other deals block generic makers from mail-order services that account for an estimated 40 percent of all Lipitor prescriptions. 'Pfizer's tactic of dressing up as a generics company is pulling the rug under the incentive system created to foster the development of generic drugs,' says attorney David A. Balto."
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Patent Expires On Best Selling Drug of All Time

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  • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:34PM (#38221222) Homepage Journal
    My ass. you grant a monopoly to someone. That someone gets big on that monopoly. You think that they would just let it go when patent expires ? think again. has music industry let it go with copyrights ? no, they are trying to extend it to 120 years now. pfizer is just another example. bad example though - they could just lobby beforehand and try to extend patent durations, like music industry does with copyrights.
    • Yes, they do. Being able to get sole rightrs on the drug is why tneya re invented. It can cost mollions of dollars.

      And this article is much ado about nothing. Patent is expiring, company ups advertising and lowers price.

      BFD

      • by bky1701 (979071) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:46PM (#38221340) Homepage
        More often than not, they are "invented" based on research done at universities; including publicly funded ones. We should be cutting the middle-man and funding those projects more, rather than creating artificial property to encourage corporations to "invent" drugs.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:52PM (#38221410)

          It's not a patent problem it's an anti-trust problem. Please adjust your 'fixit' suggestions accordingly.

        • by demonlapin (527802) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:53PM (#38221420) Homepage Journal
          This bears only the most tenuous connection to the truth. Yes, the cholesterol synthesis pathway came out of a lot of university research. HMG-CoA reductase is a critical enzyme. There are a lot of compounds that will inhibit enzymes in vitro; the vast majority are utterly unsuited to use as anything but research compounds because they aren't safe, can't be made into an orally bioavailable form, have bad kinetics, or any of a thousand other things that can sink a potential drug.

          Drugs come from... drug companies, not from universities, because drug companies have the billions of dollars to put a compound through clinical trials and the expertise to make the drugs usable.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:18PM (#38221638)

            You don't need patents to commercialize medicine. With the exception of clinical trials, everything could be done in a free market just as well (and did; aspirin was invented in Germany but couldn't be patented there; in fact in the early part of the 20th century, before Germany and France allowed drug and chemical patents, they were the center of innovation in those fields.)

            Clinical trials are like a public good, and all things told society would maximize its wealth by ditching patents and funding clinical trials with taxes. A very good read on the myths of copyright and patents is "Against Intellectual Monopoly".

            • by blakelarson (1486631) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:21PM (#38222234)
              A drug trial can literally run more than $10M easily. Are you telling me that a government should fund every companies clinical trial at $10M a pop? Don't clinical research orgs. stand to make a *lot* of money off of that? Or should the government decide who gets this clinical trial money? Not sure if you know this, but the government isn't always the best judge of which companies / ideas to support.
              • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:39PM (#38222370) Homepage

                Monopoly drugs are what's expensive. If you remove one of the justifications for absurd monopoly prices on drugs, you will likely save much more money in the long run than you spend on drug trials.

                Besides drug trials represent an obvious conflict of interest if being carried out by a company that stands to profit greatly from the ensuing monopoly. Taking them completely out of the hands of the drug companies might not be a bad idea just for that.

                • by lorenlal (164133) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @11:40PM (#38222778)

                  The clinical trials have to adhere to extremely strict regulations by the FDA.

                  Also, there is insane liability with drugs too. If you (by your suggestion) think that drug companies are at all interested in cutting some corners during testing and trials, you're clearly not considering the amount of money said company stands to lose if something bad were to happen. If you want to see a sample: http://drugclassactionlawsuit.com/ [drugclassa...awsuit.com]

                  So, yea, there's huge risk in bringing something to market. I don't know what a good solution is yet, or if maybe moving the research/testing to the public sector is a good idea... But don't discount that the drug companies (the few that are still around) have plenty riding on making sure those trials.

            • by demonlapin (527802) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @11:50PM (#38222840) Homepage Journal
              In the early 1900s, nobody had NMR, IR, or mass spectrometry to determine structures and reproduce them. And we really had very few drugs - if you study the development of clinically useful drugs, modern mechanisms of action mostly didn't appear until the amphetamines of the 1920s, and penicillin and the antihistamines in the 1930s.
          • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:14PM (#38222172)

            Drugs come from... drug companies, not from universities, because drug companies have the billions of dollars to put a compound through clinical trials and the expertise to make the drugs usable.

            And don't forget, they've got twice as much money for advertising those drugs as they have for researching those drugs and running those clinical trials. [sciencedaily.com]

            • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @11:09PM (#38222568)

              Drugs come from... drug companies, not from universities, because drug companies have the billions of dollars to put a compound through clinical trials and the expertise to make the drugs usable.

              And don't forget, they've got twice as much money for advertising those drugs as they have for researching those drugs and running those clinical trials. [sciencedaily.com]

              Actually, I sold my Pfizer stock long ago, because in an era where medicine's costs are skyrocketing, share value remained pretty much flat. Or dropped.

              After a while I noticed that the REAL drug development seemed to come out of small companies. Big Pharma (Pfizer and friends) were more interested in buying them out than in actual productive work of their own.

              Liptor is the Drug From Hell as far as drug companies are concerned. Every attempt to replace it with something with a newer patent has exploded in their faces, as all the Lipitor "improvements" have been pretty darned dangerous, whereas Lipitor is fairly safe for most people.

            • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @11:17PM (#38222630)

              thank you.

              lets always remember that if they can afford so much on advertising and marketing, SOMETHING IS WRONG and should be changed.

              this is healthcare. its not some luxury item.

              lets not forget this. its what makes us HUMAN, dammit.

              healthcare is different. it is. if you don't understand that, you are a barbarian.

          • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:30PM (#38222310)
            There's a vaccine to prevent a virus that causes cervical cancer. Unless you are living in a cave you would have heard of it. The development and even the US FDA trials were paid for by the Australian taxpayer, yet in the USA it sells for far more than anywhere else becuase that is what the market will bear. The US drug company that licenced it is not paying any more per dose than anyone else either, that extra money is pure profit. That's just one very blatant example of many.
            I suggest you pay more attention before writing "bears only the most tenuous connection to the truth" then following that with something that is incorrect.
            • by deglr6328 (150198) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @12:58AM (#38223252)

              I don't have the slightest clue as to why you're modded at +5, but I do know that you have literally no clue as to what in the hell you're talking about. I assume you're referring to the anti HPV vaccine Cevarix rather than Gardasil because you mention "the Australian taxpayer" and some of the technology used in Cevarix was discovered at Uni. Queensland. You conveniently neglect to mention that the Queensland researchers were collaborating with others at Georgetown, the Uni. of Rochester and the US National Cancer Institute, among others. The technology behind the discoveries made at these places was licensed to GlaxoSmithKline, a British company. The idea that the Australian taxpayer footed the bill for the FDA trials in the US is, frankly, idiotic. The trials were conducted by Glaxo, obviously. Additionally, there is no "US drug company that licenced [sic] it", it's being sold by Glaxo here just as it is everywhere else.

              I know it's a crying shame that none of this fits into your wacky worldview where all corporations represent the nexus of evil and steal all their product ideas from "the people", but I guess you'll just have to find some way to get over it. I suggest you take some of your own advice about "paying more attention before writing" before your next post.

        • by tsotha (720379) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:27PM (#38221712)
          Nope. Drug targets come out of universities. But drug targets are a dime a dozen. The real expense is in clinical trials, and that is paid by drug companies in almost all cases. When the cost is shared the university gets part of the patent.
        • by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:51PM (#38221956)

          We should be cutting the middle-man and funding those projects more

          I think you need both systems. Academia is just as attractive to hucksters as the free market when flush with money. How many BS grant proposals get written just to finance the existence of a department? The university system is one of the crowning achievements of humanity, but let's not get carried away and think it can replace capitalism.

        • by Absolut187 (816431) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:42PM (#38222404) Homepage

          We are funding those projects... by granting patent monopolies. Universities bring in millions in patent royalties every year.

          The neat thing about the patent system, is that the funding (royalties) is based on the value of the invention, not lobbyist skills.

          Your suggestion is to replace one "middle-man" (the patent system and USPTO examination process) with another "middle-man" (Congress, NEA, etc - name your grant-making bureaucracy). Pick your poison.

      • by alienzed (732782) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:18PM (#38221628) Homepage
        I don't care what it costs, people will do the research anyway because they know someone or themselves are afflicted with the condition. I just don't buy that we'll stop innovating if patents and copyrights disappear. There will still be profit to be made and there will still be incentive to make that profit. The only difference is that competition will drive down prices and drive up quality. How can you have capitalism AND government granted monopolies at the same time? It doesn't make sense.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:51PM (#38221958)

          I just don't buy that we'll stop innovating if patents and copyrights disappear.

          You don't need to, because that's a strawman. Proponents of patents/copyrights hold that those things get us more innovation than we would without them, not that there would be none at all without them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Intropy (2009018)
          Why should I invent something when I can just wait for you to invent it then rip it off?
        • by exomondo (1725132)

          The only difference is that competition will drive down prices and drive up quality.

          It'll go to whoever can make it the cheapest and still turn a profit, which will be whoever has the biggest manufacturing operations, because the person who actually invents it has nothing of value, to create any kind of profit from it they would need a manufacturing operation, one capable of competing with existing established large manufacturing operations. How are they going to do that?

        • by Fluffeh (1273756)

          I just don't buy that we'll stop innovating if patents and copyrights disappear. There will still be profit to be made and there will still be incentive to make that profit.

          The problem here (and I am against many patents/copyrights for the most part) is that due to the "We must be 100% certain that no-one will be hurt in any way, shape, form or other..." approach taken by most countries in what they allow to be used for treating what - and the absurd litigation that occurs throughout the US when unforseen side-effects surface, or medications don't work quite as advertised. These things have driven up the cost to go from an idea or even some solid research to the point where it

        • by Absolut187 (816431) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:48PM (#38222436) Homepage

          "I don't care what it costs, people will do the research anyway because they know someone or themselves are afflicted with the condition."

          Aww.. That's adorable. You are so cute.

        • by pz (113803) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @11:43PM (#38222796) Journal

          That's a nice Hollywood-inspired vision you have there.

          Reality is that research costs money. A lot of money. Being passionate and driven, in the Hollywood sense, is largely irrelevant because that does not get you research dollars. Money for health-related research comes from the NIH, and only the NIH, to first approximation. Yes, there are other sources, but the NIH dwarfs them all. Sure, an extraordinarily motivated researcher might be able to convince George Soros to give him a few million dollars to pursue a multi-year plan on a new drug target, but that's the Hollywood fantasy again. The vast majority of biology researchers get their money from the standard NIH grant mechanism called an R01 (pronounced ARR-OH-ONE). That would be your tax dollars at work.

          As another poster pointed out, that's only the first step. A drug target has been identified by university research. Now, the hard part begins where multiple animal models are tested in large scale, followed by Phase I clinical trials with a small cohort to demonstrate that the drug causes no harm, then Phase II trials with a slightly larger cohort to determine effective doses, then, perhaps, another animal study or two because the results didn't work as well as anticipated in humans, followed by Phase I again on a reformulated drug, then more research to figure out why there were horrible side-effects, back to Phase I, then Phase II, and, if the developer is lucky, Phase III. We're talking years after the initial discovery now, with lots of hospital costs, lots of salaries, and *then* the legal stuff starts with the FDA to get approval for general release. Next, lobbying starts on the insurance companies, especially Medicare and Medicaid, to cover treatment with the drug.

          Put it this way, there is an entire industry focused specifically on clinical trials, and most drug candidates don't make it through. Because we've set the bar so high to get a drug approved, and the success rate is so low, there must be substantial reward for many people to justify the expense. One researcher having a dream is not enough, despite what Hollywood would have you believe.

      • by forand (530402)
        You may want to read this ProPublica article [propublica.org] on the subject. They are not simply lowering prices. They are exerting their market share to prohibit others from competing with them.
      • Yes, they do. Being able to get sole rightrs on the drug is why tneya re invented. It can cost mollions of dollars.*

        They did get $10.7 billion in revenues last year. For the most part I'm ok with them making a lot more than the drug costs to develop. After all not every drug is successful. I'm pretty okay with the time for patents. I might argue a little shorter but its a low item for my ideal(ological) patent system. I think the only problem I have is the influence marketing has on people. Not that advertising your products is bad but that many people use it as their sole source of research.

        I believe there is a

    • by msauve (701917) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:45PM (#38221332)
      Phizer has, no doubt, efficient large scale production processes in place for atorvastatin. If they can produce and sell it for less than companies which focus on generics, more power to them. How is this bad for the consumer?
    • by aurispector (530273) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:00PM (#38221484)

      Patents by design grant a TEMPORARY monopoly to cover the cost of R&D and to provide incentive for companies to actually do the R& D in the first place.

      The problem with the drug industry is that in order to comply with the regulatory quagmire that is the FDA, they have to disclose essential details about their work publicly long before it can go to market. Hence patents must be acquired long before the drug can make any money. These days drugs cost literally billions of dollars to develop. Burning patent life during the R&D time robs the companies of profits they would have earned, driving up costs for the consumer as they must raise prices in order to recoup R&D expenses in the shortened time the product is on the market under patent. Remember, these drugs save lives and directly improve the quality of life for potentially billions of people. These same people will eventually get reduced cost access to the drug when it goes generic off patent.

      Contrast this with the entertainment industry: Anyone can pen an idiotic ditty for virtually nothing, in basically no time at all. The product merely provides people with fleeting, momentary amusement. No lives are saved, no diseases cured. Even the biggest, most expensive blockbuster movie costs a fraction of what it cost to bring lipitor to market..

      Now unless you're an idiotic, dirty, lazy hippie who thinks everything should be free, you will have to admit that unless people are going to get paid, there is no way they are going to spend all that time and effort on drug development even if the end result means lives are saved. After all they have mouths to feed, mortgages to pay, etc, and the pharmaceutical industry is one of the few areas left in the US consistently providing high paying jobs to smart, motivated and educated people.

      Turns out the profit motive is a terrific way to get people to do useful things. Who'da thunk that people were willing to work so hard in order to get ahead. Amazing, isn't it?

      • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:11PM (#38221562) Homepage Journal
        ALL TEMPORARY MONOPOLIES try to turn themselves into PERMANENT MONOPOLIES.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by UnknownSoldier (67820)

        > Now unless you're an idiotic, dirty, lazy hippie who thinks everything should be free, you will have to admit that unless people are going to get paid, there is no way they are going to spend all that time and effort on drug development even if the end result means lives are saved.

        I was going to mod you down as troll/flamebait since you seem to be an ignorant greedy capitalist but that wouldn't encourage people to actually discuss and raise above this ignorance. Namely,

        a) you are generalizing and maki

        • by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:35PM (#38222344)

          First, kudos for keeping the discussion civil.

          I disagree with some of your points, though. Specifically:

          You _do_ realize that animals have lived on this planet millions of years without "paying" anyone. The universe provides everything you need to exist

          Animals (including humans) spend a lot of time "subsisting". That is, chronically hungry or malnourished. Animals left to their own devices generally consume everything that they can, build up a large population, and then starve back to a more sustainable population. Healthy populations of animals tend to be healthy because some predator is culling the sick and old and generally keeping the numbers down. I don't think you want to look to the animal kingdom as any kind of a model for humans.

          I'm sorry but EVERYONE has the right to life, regardless of the cost.

          Everyone has the right not to have their life taken away, but no one has a right to unlimited, state-of-the-art healthcare. Money is just a way to quantify resources, and we don't have the resources to give everyone all the healthcare that they want, when they want it. You have to ration it. Different countries take different approaches. In the US, we have 3 different systems of healthcare and so we see wait lists, prioritization (like for organ transplants), restricted availability, and of course dollars. In some countries, they use restricted availability, age limits for certain procedures, and wait lists. And these are the rich countries. The point is, you have to mete out the health care somehow, and while it seems cold to say, "sorry, you can't afford it," I think it also sounds cold to say, "sorry, you are too old to have a kidney transplant." I'm not sure what the right balance is, but I'm willing to discuss it - but I think it is completely incorrect to say that everyone has a right to healthcare - I think that's more of a laudable goal, or an ideal to strive for, but not a right. You do have a right to die, though :)

      • by Waccoon (1186667) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @04:55AM (#38224238)

        the pharmaceutical industry is one of the few areas left in the US consistently providing high paying jobs to smart, motivated and educated people.

        I generally agree with your stance, but lines like this bother me. My sister used to work for a number of pharmaceutical companies. "High paying" doesn't really describe the positions very well, and the instant a breakthrough was made, management sold the company and the workers got their pink slips (hence, working for "a number of" companies). I find it amazing that anything gets done at all, when everyone knows an R&D breakthrough means everyone loses their job.

        It's as dirty a business as any other.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:34PM (#38221224)

    At least Pfizer isn't trying to unreasonably extend the patent, sue its customers, or use other underhanded tricks to cheat the system at the expense of everyone else.

    Unlike some other...companies.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:48PM (#38221372) Journal

      I'm unclear here. Since when did pharmacists suddenly get the right to override a doctor's prescription? How can Pfizer actually get a pharmacist to sign an exclusivity agreement.

      • by dlevitan (132062) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:11PM (#38221560)

        I'm unclear here. Since when did pharmacists suddenly get the right to override a doctor's prescription? How can Pfizer actually get a pharmacist to sign an exclusivity agreement.

        Pharmacists don't override a doctor's prescription. Lipitor is the brand name of the drug Atorvastatin, which was developed by Pfizer. A prescription is for Atorvastatin (or Lipitor, whatever the doctor) writes down, but the drug is the same whether or not is was made by Pfizer (and called Lipitor) or by a different company (and called atorvastatin). Pfizer has simply made exclusivity agreements that pharmacies would not sell generic versions of atorvastatin. This might be bad for the consumer (price-wise, not health-wise), but they can always go to a different pharmacy if theirs refuses to sell the generic.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Pharmacy techs here in Canada have full right to offer a generic or brand even against the doctors orders, as long as it's chemically identical to the drug prescribed.
        That's one of the benefits of a nation wide healthcare program that subsides drugs to some extent, they're always on the lookout to save a few more dollars.

        AFAIK: (I'm not an American, so this is simply "as told to me by a pharmacy tech friend of mine in the states") The Pharmacy (not the tech) can choose to replace a brand with a generic, if

        • by rrossman2 (844318) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:20PM (#38221644)

          The Pharmacist can in the States... and they can also pay a large sum of money for a license that actually allows them to "write" prescriptions as well. Pharmacy Techs are really nothing more than take the script, pass the script on (maybe count the pills), tell you it's ready, and ring you out.

          My ex-gf went to the University of Pittsburgh for Pharmacology so I got to learn quite a bit about how it all works (and learned more in organic chem than I'd like to or ever had to seeing as I went IT)

    • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:10PM (#38221554)

      Quoting the Summary:

      Pfizer is employing unprecedented tactics to hold onto as many Lipitor prescriptions as it can with an aggressive marketing plan and forging deals with insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and patients to meet or beat the price of its generic replacements

      As long as the Meet or Beat tactic is used I fail to see the problem. If a pharmacy can get a better price on the original Lipitor, make a profit and still beat the generic price fine by me.

      Even if the pharmacy has to sign an exclusivity agreement and not carry the generic but still gets to beat the price, fine.

      Not every pharmacy carries every drug, and doctors often allow substitutions,. generic or otherwise. In fact they are encouraged to NOT prescribe brand name drugs. Some states [state.il.us] limit this specifically for patients under state programs.

      Most drugs that have widely accepted generic equivalences are no longer routinely prescribed with the stipulation of Dispense As Written (DAW), because it raises a red flags with insurance companies and is often a financial burden on patients.

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:36PM (#38221236) Homepage Journal

    A patent is going to expire. The company responds with marketing and by lowering it's price.

    That's just horrid~ Someone is working to hard to find ills.

    What's that? there are going to create a generic version of the drug they created? OMG!!1!!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Osgeld (1900440)

      It does show how much they were raping the system and users, their cost have not gone down but wow its now much much much cheaper and yet they will still turn a profit

      let me shed a tear for them.

      • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:54PM (#38221426) Homepage Journal

        NO one is shedding any tears. Iw as simply stating there is no story hee.

        And making a lot of money is a fair trade off for the amount of science they do, and the number of new drugs.

        Now it's expiring, and it will be cheaper.

        I would like to point out that the article has a lot of statements from the author with nothing to support them.

        The story her, if there really is one, is how the generic companies are whining they won't be able to compete with the lower prices.
        The point of generics was a low cost alternative. It' it's already low cost, they go away.

        • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by leonardluen (211265) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:52PM (#38221962)

          i think there is a story here. we should compare this expiring patent to the copyrights (which it appears never expire, as they just extend it any time it gets close)

          So we see this patent expiring and the company that holds it is suddenly becoming more competitive to stay in business and the consumers are winning because of it.

          now i wonder what the *iaa would do if their copyrights were starting to expire...i suppose they would have to do something to remain competitive, and the consumers would win because they would be able to get cheap media.

          however the *iaa is lazy and don't want to have to do that extra work, and so instead they have fought to keep copyrights perpetual.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Caerdwyn (829058) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:01PM (#38221488) Journal

        Exactly. They never should have been allowed to create the drug or sell it in the first place. The whole idea of "whoever does the work is the one who should get the reward" is evil. Pharma companies should not be allowed to engage in research, earn profit, or do anything except bleed money into the pockets of lawyers and socialists. Anyone should be able to simultaneously cash in on another company's research and sue that company. Drugs happen by magic, and don't tell me otherwise; effort has nothing to do with it. Screw people with high cholesterol, they're old while entitlement-driven people are young, it doesn't affect the young so to hell with anyone except the young. I'm ENTITLED.

        May you die of a heart attack for want of an effective drug.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:21PM (#38221660)

      The company responds with marketing and by lowering it's price.

      Right, but they're not lowering their price as much as the generic. They're negotiating deals with your insurance company so your co-pay for the name brand will be lower than generics, even though the rate the insurance company actually pays for brand-name Lipitor would be higher than the generic, so you save $5 on a copay but the insurance risk pool loses $50, because the drug company is insulating you from the underlying costs and distorting your buying decision.

      It's classic drug company tactic- they'll hand out "coupons" or "drug benefit cards" that defray the excess cost of a brand-name copay over a generic copay, so if your brand-name copay on a drug is $40 and the generic is $15, Pfizer will pay you the $25 difference to buy the brand name. They can afford the difference because they're probably profiting over $100 on the bottle, you just don't see the cost to your insurance company at the point-of-sale, it gets turned into higher premiums. It's a big part of why prescription drug insurance is so expensive in the US, several states have banned manufacturer drug coupons and This American Life [thisamericanlife.org] did a whole episode on it a year or two ago.

  • by E IS mC(Square) (721736) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:37PM (#38221246) Journal

    Hey, they are just taking care of their stockholders Nothing wrong with it, right?

    Capitalism, it just works, bitches.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:37PM (#38221248) Journal

    Today Pfizer announced results of a new study showing that cholesterol has nothing to do with any health problems whatsoever, but water can kill you. Simultaneously they announced the start of trials of a new drug to control this menace, tentatively named hydroprofitor.

    • Re:In other news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:59PM (#38221472)

      More likely they will "invest research capital" into the "vastly superior" "lipitor HCl" or similar.

      This is a comon practice in the pharmacutical industry. Create a game changing drug, then milk it *FOREVER*, by tacking on a medically useless functional group to change the molecule enough to file for a new patent, covering the entire chemical family.

      • Re:In other news (Score:5, Informative)

        by mirix (1649853) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:11PM (#38221564)

        Yep. The first one that comes to mind is claritin.

        From what I remember, claritin is a... prodrug? - it metabolises to something else in vivo. So when they patent expired, they started marketing the metabolite instead, which they got a new patent on.

        I've heard of other cases where drugs, previously a mix of L and R isomers became generic, so they launched a new drug with just one of the isomers.

        Kind of nauseating, really.

        Loratadine was eventually approved by the FDA in 1993.[2] It accounted for 28% of Schering's total sales[citation needed]. The drug continued to be available only by prescription in the U.S. until it went off patent in 2002.[citation needed] It was then immediately approved for over-the-counter sales. Once it became an unpatented over-the-counter drug, the price dropped precipitously, and insurance companies no longer paid for it. In response, Schering launched an expensive advertising campaign to convince users to switch to desloratadine (descarboethoxyloratadine, trade name Clarinex), which is the active metabolite of loratadine. A 2003 study comparing the two drugs found that "There is no clinical advantage to switching a patient from loratadine to desloratadine.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:40PM (#38221276) Homepage

    Damn public! how dare they want affordable drugs for healthcare!!!!

  • Patent vs Copyright (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East (318230) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:42PM (#38221294) Homepage Journal

    So, if congress has been able to withstand the lobbying for indefinite patents, given the massive amount of money on the line as indicated by this single drug patent, how come they fold to the likes of Disney when it comes to copyright? Maybe it's the cuteness of the cartoon characters.

    • by mysidia (191772) * on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:47PM (#38221356)

      It's simple.... insurance companies have more lobbyists than pharmaceuticals. And insurance companies like generic drugs, because it lowers their costs, and increases profit of the insurance co..

    • by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:52PM (#38221412)

      As a rule, politicians are white, elitist, and rich.

      White rich elitists tend to eat overly calorific foods, that cause high cholesterol.

      As such, I would not be surprised if many politicians have scripts for cholesterol, hypertension, and liver disorders.

      Getting between your meal ticket and his life sustaining medications is not good PR.

      Compare to copyright, which is not life threatening or life regulating (at least once you pass a certain income bracket. Ahem) you can clearly spot the reasons why, aside from insider trading and the like, politicians don't get lobbied for quite the same things from the pharmecutical giants the same way they get lobbied for copyright extensions from big media.

      If you throw in the more tinfoil hat type thinking about the control of information and culture that makes the public easier to police and control, I think you have a winner.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:45PM (#38221328)

    They have a huge profit margin because of the stunning breakthrough they funded when they backed Bruce Roth.

    Roth first synthesized atorvastatin in 1985. For the discovery, he received the 1997 Warner-Lambert Chairman's Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award, the 1999 Inventor of the Year Award from the New York Intellectual Property Law Association, the 2003 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention, the 2003 Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Service, the 2005 Iowa State University Distinguished Alumni Award, and the 2006 Pfizer Global Research and Development Achievement Award.

    Roth was named a 2008 Hero of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society (ACS).

  • by jader3rd (2222716) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @08:52PM (#38221414)
    Phizer was able to extend the drug by getting new patents on it. Then for these past few months they paid off the generic drug makers to not create generics for the drug. A scheme known as "pay for delay". Heard about it yesterday on Marketplace and was shocked to hear that a generic drug company has to go to court after the patent has expried to official unexpire it. "This is the government policy, set up in the 1980s, to bring us lower drug prices." http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/lipitor-makes-way-generics [marketplace.org]
  • I'm pretty much convinced that Lipitor is a scam, along with the whole "cholesterol" theory. This will just lead to more drug-laden zombies, and more overprescription for perfectly healthy people.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:41PM (#38221854)

    Pfizer is a for-profit company, and that they want to patent their product and profit from their ingenuity is great. That's how capitalism works: sell a good product that people want to buy, turn a profit, succeed.

    However, drug patents last up to 20 years. Rather than riding heavily on Lipitor profits for that period of time, and releasing alternate versions of the same drug over and over again, wouldn't it have been prudent to turn efforts toward producing and patenting the Next Amazing Drug?

    They knew the day would come that Lipitor's patent would expire. If, in spite of the massive profits they've made from this and other products, they couldn't innovate anything to replace that massive chunk of profits, then they have to bow out gracefully instead of going through ridiculous, unsavory means to ensure revenue.

    Profiting morally from a good profit is capitalism. Tactics like this are not.

  • by arthurpaliden (939626) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @09:56PM (#38221986)
    Canada has had generic Lipitor for over a year now.
  • by El_Oscuro (1022477) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:05PM (#38222084) Homepage

    All of these cholesterol drugs including Lipitor work by mucking about with your liver. I am type 1 diabetic and my doctor prescribed a low dose of Zocor (a similar cholesterol drug). After about a year I started experiencing weird join pain and nerve problems. My first concern was ALS - I knew someone who died of it. I saw doctors, including a neurologist, had lots of tests done . Nothing. It wasn't until a year later that I read an article in the LA times about Zocor being withdrawn from the market at a higher dose because of the same symptom that I realized what was causing them. None of my doctors told me anything.

    My cholesterol isn't really that high. My doctors prescribed it because of the diabetes. I stopped taking it and the pain improved dramatically. At one point it was so bad I could barely lift the top off of a coffee can.

    The other side is the garbage that we call food. Most of it is loaded with trans-fatty oils and added sugars. Forget all of the claims on the front of the box - get a microscope and read the ingredient list on the back. If there are hydrogenated oils or lots of added sugar (any form of corn syrup, anything with *ose, "designer" sugars such as honey, molasses, evaporated cane juice, etc. Try to find foods that have fewer ingredients that can pronounce you actually might have in your kitchen. They are available and often don't cost much more. Some of the more reliable brands are Kashi, Amy's, Trader Joe's, Edy's, Martins, etc.

    If you take any of these drugs, look them up on youtube (don't bother with webmd or anything similar as they are useless). The results might scare you.

  • by toomanyhandles (809578) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:06PM (#38222102)
    fuck Pfizer, they never developed much of their own, they bought Warner-Lambert and others to acquire this drug and other drug candidates.

    They followed this up by closing down their most productive R& D sites globally.

    Vast personal profit for the execs, decades of experienced researchers tossed to the wind, and their "if we screened X million candidates with this robotic platform and got N useful hits, if we screen X^5 million via robotic screen we'll get N^5 final candidates and reap the rewards" strategy didn't work worth a darn. Big surprise.

    That's what happens when suits (some hired from companies with a GREAT track record for drug development- like.... McDonalds) take over a scientific company.

    A few more rounds of boosting stock price via layoffs and this will be a little has-been of a company.

    Nice work there guys. Way to destroy a company. You could have done the same thing by just buying a pizza chain or something and selling off assets for personal gain, and not cost the real human race useful medications.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:14PM (#38222180)

    Pfizer did not discover or invent Lipitor. Lipitor was discovered and invented by Warner Lambert/Parke-Davis in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in an industrial setting, not academic. Warner Lambert/Parke-Davis partnered with Pfizer to develop and market the drug and share the profits. From the profits of Lipitor alone, Pfizer was able to buy and takeover Warner Lambert/Parke-Davis, where it closed the Ann Arbor site a few years later in 2007 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02krhNFfEq4). Of the 2200 scientists at the Ann Arbor site, approximately 600 remained with the company, of which approximately 300 relocated to Groton, CT, Pfizer's legacy discovery research site. The other 300 scientists relocated to sites in St. Louis, MO (winding down and eventually closing), La Jolla, CA, and Sandwich, England (now in the process of closing - over 2000 jobs lost). In these relocations, Pfizer was very generous and bought families homes for the original price and paid to relocate employees and their families across the world. Pharmaceutical site closures are very expensive and impact families and disrupt local economies significantly; purchasing employees homes is an incentive to retain talent. Pfizer assisted employees buy new homes by paying for real estate agents and paying closing costs on homes. In 2009, Pfizer bought Wyeth Laboratories and laid-off tens-of-thousands of scientists, many of them from Ann Arbor, MI, its most successful discovery research site ever based on the site talent, technology, and number of marketed drugs from that site, Groton, CT, and many from Wyeth various sites in the U.S. Several years ago, Pfizer was able to reduce the cost of manufacture of Lipitor more than 200-fold using a series of natural wildtype and industrially modified enzymes.

    Pfizer's former CEO Jeffrey B. Kindler and former CEO of McDonalds, became so unpopular with the rank-and-file that he earned two nick-names, first "McBurger," and finally and more commonly known as "CLOWN SHOES" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clgRId8x0ZM). Employees would and still post about dissatisfaction with the company's direction and leadership on BioFind.com (http://biofind.com/rumor).

    • by toomanyhandles (809578) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:21PM (#38222240)
      You neglect to mention that now in 2010/ 2011 Pfizer is closing down the sites to which they so "graciously" relocated a small percentage of their researchers (300 of 2200 is a crummy percentage, and that from just ONE site that closed at that time). Small investment in 2008 for a bump in stock price in 2011 for laying off more staff: more stock profit for the suits.
  • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:54PM (#38222462)
    Best selling drug of all time? Never heard of aspirin?
  • Of all time? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rossdee (243626) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @11:34PM (#38222732)

    Surely Alcohol is the best selling drug of all time

  • Not Generic YET (Score:5, Informative)

    by nbetcher (973062) <nbetcher AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 01, 2011 @12:31AM (#38223092)

    Lipitor has had an ANDA filed for a generic version by Watson, yes. However, the law allows Pfizer to grant a 180 day exclusivity contract to a manufacturer of their choice (in this case Watson) for the ANDA. To those affected by this drug going generic: IT HAS NOT GONE TRULY GENERIC YET! Wait until the 180 day exclusivity contract expires (in 179 days) and the true "invisible hand" will take effect in the market.

    In the meantime, you're most likely going to need to get the BRAND NAME Lipitor for it to be covered to the fullest extent by your pharmacy benefit manager ("insurance company")! These PBMs get rebates (NOT kickbacks) to lower the cost of the brand-name drug, so it's financially advantageous to the member to not cover the generic yet. Here's why:

    Lipitor (brand) 90ct bottle = $550 retail, minus $330 in rebates = $220 total cost of drug.
    atorvastatin by Watson (generic) 90ct bottle = $530 retail, minus $0 in rebates (Watson doesn't offer any) = $550 total cost of drug.
    (These amounts are fictional, however they represent true real-world scenarios.)

    Disclaimer: I work for one of the US' largest Pharmacy Benefit Managers in the Clinical Review department. We had a meeting today regarding all of our Medicare Part-D patients and how they're affected by this specific drug going generic. No suits were involved and the members are receiving the best possible drug savings until the exclusivity contract expires. Once it expires the new generics will be placed on the tier-1 ("generic") copay structure.

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