Pfizer switch of Lipitor under consideration

But Pfizer is currently focusing on Lipitor promotions in preparation for the Nov. 30 expiry

NEW YORK — It's official. Pfizer will be exploring a potential switch of its blockbuster lipid-lowering drug Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium).

"There is an intent at some point to try and have an OTC version of Lipitor on the marketplace," Ian Read, Pfizer CEO, president, director and chairman, told analysts on Tuesday. However, for the time being, Pfizer is focused on buttressing Lipitor sales after patent expiry at the end of November through promotion. "Most of the focus is on ensuring the brand has a robust performance in the rest of 2011 and the first 180 days of its loss of exclusivity," Read said. "The brand Lipitor is strong. And these actions we're taking, they are not specifically directed toward strengthening any potential OTC brand in the future."

Pfizer is assuming both Watson and Ranbaxy will be entering the market with generic versions of Lipitor on the official loss-of-exclusivity date of Nov. 30. And 180 days following Ranbaxy's entry, Pfizer is preparing for multiple generic pharmaceutical companies to launch a Lipitor equivalent.

"We are continuing to promote Lipitor in order to maximize the vital opportunities, as Ian said, on both pre- and post-LOE," said Olivier Brandicourt, president and general manager of Pfizer Worldwide Primary Care Business. Pfizer launched a $4 co-pay card in December last year, and a new program launched in September — the Lipitor For You program — includes an assisted co-pay for a targeted group of patients. "So we also have partnered to your point, with some customers, so their patients can remain or even begin taking branded Lipitor," he said. "And we are continuing to explore opportunities to partner with the others. So we are definitely supporting the brand again and maximizing the brand pre- and post-LOE."

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