Senators look into Pfizer-PBM deal for Lipitor

PBMs would instruct pharmacies to only dispense branded version

NEW YORK — Pfizer's efforts to protect the sales of its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor have attracted scrutiny from members of Congress, according to published reports.

The New York Times reported Thursday that three senators — Max Baucus, D-Mont.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; and Herb Kohl, D-Wis. — had asked Pfizer and five other companies to provide details of their agreements to prevent dispensing of generic versions of Lipitor (atorvastatin) and dispense only the branded version.

Ranbaxy Labs announced the launch of its generic version of Lipitor Wednesday night, following Watson Pharmaceuticals' launch of an authorized generic version of the drug, following the expiration of Lipitor's patent protection. Lipitor is the world's highest-selling drug, with sales of $7.8 billion in the United States during the 12-month period ended in September, according to IMS Health.

The Times reported last month that Pfizer had made a deal with pharmacy benefit managers timed to coincide with Ranbaxy’s exclusivity period, whereby the PBMs would instruct pharmacies to fill prescriptions with branded Lipitor and then charge customers the same co-pay that they would for the generic version. The Times quoted critics of the deal as saying that while patients would be charged the lower co-pay, payers would still have to pay the full price.

Pfizer also made a deal with Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy to sell Lipitor directly to consumers through the mail at a reduced price.

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