Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Is Pfizer's Lipitor Strategy Working?

Since November 30, the atorvastatin market has been split between Pfizer’s heavily-discounted brand-name Lipitor product, an authorized generic from Watson, and the first-to-file generic Ranbaxy. See Ranbaxy Makes Three: The Battle for Generic Lipitor Profits. Pfizer has been criticized for its unorthodox discounting strategy.

Surprisingly, Lipitor share is tracking below historical generic substitution patterns from the past few years, i.e., the brand-name version is losing share faster than a typical generic drug.

The chart below tells the story, which is about as unexpected as an overweight, butter-loving celebrity chef becoming the spokesperson for a manufacturer of diabetes medicine. Oh, wait...

Based on IMS data, Larry Marsh at Barclays Capital reported yesterday that atorvastatin, the generic form of Lipitor, controlled 67.4% of the Lipitor market for the week ending January 6, 2012. This is the fifth full reported week by IMS with atorvastatin on the market.

The chart below compares Lipitor to a broad sample of generic drugs from the past 5 years. To create it, I combined the following two sources:

It certainly looks like Pfizer's critics were a bit hasty in complaining about the Lipitor discount and rebate programs, especially given the likelihood that Pfizer's strategy reduced total healthcare spending faster than if they had done nothing. 

I'll check back in a few months and see where things stand. In the meantime, I'll be managing my weight and cholesterol levels by eating a burger, egg, bacon, and donut sandwich.


  1. What was Novo thinking? Didn't anyone watch Paula Deen's show?

  2. Adam - This is great and interesting as I think everyone is focused on this case study.  I certainly plan for this to be part of my PCMA discussion on the topic in a few weeks.

    At the same time, this looks very different than the curves I'm familiar with.  I thought MSB share was typically about 10% by month 3. 

    I guess the question is whether IMS data is missing anything.  I think there are some retailers and mail order pharmacies that don't share their data, but I can't remember.  Is that an issue?


  3. No mystery here in my mind.  Most PBM/Formulary managers dislike/distrust Pfizer due to their past marketing practices.  Time to get even for their many dirty tricks over the years.

  4. It should be noted that in the IMS data the brand shares include line extensions such as long-acting branded formulations, even if those extensions are not generically available.  

    Given that there are no line extensions for Lipitor, this really isn't a fair comparison.  

    However, what it does demonstrate is that there is no substitute for an LCM strategy that includes a compelling line extension.    

  5. True, a more fine-grained analysis would benchmark Lipitor against "comparable" products. However, the IMS data are a reasonable (and publicly available) proxy for overall market share erosion. 

  6. I agree with jru.  The line extension issue makes this set of IMS data an unusable comparison.  Just because it is public, it is not reasonable.