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Lipitor going generic garners attention far and wide

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — With annual sales gaining on the $8 billion mark in the United States alone, according to IMS Health, Lipitor (atorvastatin) is the top-selling drug in the world, and the price markdown that Ranbaxy Labs’ launch (and subsequent generic launches) will bring, greatly will expand its accessibility. So it’s no surprise that it has attracted so much media attention over the past few weeks.

(THE NEWS: Senators look into Pfizer-PBM deal for Lipitor. For the full story, click here)

Pfizer wants to profit from the drug for as long as it can before May 31, 2012, when Ranbaxy’s market-exclusivity period ends and atorvastatin calcium becomes fair game for any generic drug maker. But some of Pfizer’s methods — particularly, partnering with PBMs to make pharmacies dispense branded Lipitor and charge customers the same price as the generic — already are attracting Capitol Hill’s scrutiny.

And that’s to say nothing of the attention that the country’s two biggest PBMs, Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions, already were getting from Congress with their proposed merger. The Pfizer deal begs a question: what sort of effect would a combined ESI-Medco mega-PBM’s ability to restrict generic dispensing have on what payers — and ultimately taxpayers and people paying into health plans — spend on health care?

Other plans include a partnership with Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy to sell Lipitor directly to consumers through the mail and an attempt at an over-the-counter switch.

It’s one thing when a generic company launches a version of a drug that’s already been on the market for years or challenges the patent on a drug with less-than-blockbuster annual sales. But Lipitor is much bigger, not only in terms of its sales figures, but what the expiration of its patent protection symbolizes: the end of the blockbuster era.

Like many drug makers, such as Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer has prepared itself by transitioning into specialty and biotech drugs, but holding on to Lipitor for as long as it can will buy it time before the blockbuster era ends.

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The many faces of the 2011 holiday season

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — During Black Friday weekend, people were spending more money during an economy where that nasty word "recession" still is on the back of everyone’s tongue. But was foot traffic down during the weekend because of the number of tryptophan-dazed consumers walking the aisles a day early to get the best deals? Or did consumers forsake the Black Friday shopping madness in exchange for the no lines/free shipping offered on Cyber Monday? Or, are consumers waiting for the anticipated retailers-gone-mad super sales that will allegedly be available on the "Super Saturday" before Dec. 25? Or are there just fewer people with gift-giving money to spend? Like any good multiple-choice test question, the answer is surely E) all of the above.

(THE NEWS: ShopperTrak: Black Friday weekend sales up, foot traffic down. For the full story, click here.)

Once considered forboden, retailers this year created quite a lot of buzz by opening their doors at a time when many people were polishing off their pumpkin pies in years past, and were rewarded by a 4.4% lift in sales according to the ShopperTrak report.

And Cyber Monday was a big hit, as were the next two days Cyber Tuesday and Cyber Wednesday. According to the latest from ComScore, Cyber Monday generated $1.3 billion in online sales, followed $1.1 billion on Nov. 29 and $1 billion on Nov. 30. That’s $3.4 billion in sales that didn’t require getting up at the crack of dawn to tussle for the last of the Fijit Friends. That means for many retailers who play in both spaces, a loss in foot traffic on Black Friday was made up for with the number of click-throughs on Cyber Monday.

An America’s Research Group/UBS survey found that around 58% of Americans are, in fact, holding out for what they are hoping will be super deals in the days leading up to Christmas. That is, of course, if they hadn’t already finished their gift shopping already — 15.1% wrapped the last of their gifts last week. The UBS survey also suggested that more than a quarter of shoppers have already exceeded their shopping budgets, thanks in part to all of the bargains they found on Black Friday and the days prior and post. One-third of shoppers are even writing their own names in the "To:" field on those gift labels.

All of the projections and the multitude of theories offering the "why" behind the "buy" are enough to make your head spin. Those projections are all over the place. Depending upon which press release you pick up, anywhere from 25% of Americans to 61% of Americans are actually looking to spend less this year.

The fact of the matter, as addressed in the Drug Store News cover story in the pending Dec. 12 issue, is that there is a sliding scale that determines how impacted a household is by the slow recovery — those making less than $100,000 are still impacted; those making more than $100,000, for the most part, are not. And higher-end consumers do represent an untapped opportunity, especially for drug retailers, according to Todd Hale, SVP shopper and consumer insights for Nielsen. Many drug retailers already appear to be raising their retail experiences they deliver to meet the expectations of a higher-end consumer with prestige beauty offerings and a greater stake in fresh food.

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‘Rhythmica’ arrives on DVD

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — A new cardio dance workout is being released on DVD from Gaiam.

"Rhythmica," which stars NYC Crunch fitness instructor Marc Santa Maria, combines results-driven workouts with the latest dance techniques to create a truly unique exercise experience, Gaiam said. "Rhythmic"a offers three 20-minute workouts, including the Get Fit House Party, Latin Dance Mix and Hip-Hop Fat Burn routines.

Rhythmica will this week at Target stores and wherever DVDs are sold.

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