The NHS has saved more than £350 million in the first 12 months after the patent expiration of Pfizer’s Lipitor last year.
This is according to the generic industry trade body, The British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA), which says generic versions of Lipitor have provided the NHS with “significant cost savings” on the cholesterol-lowering drug.
The NHS was spending more than £400 million annually on Lipitor at its peak, though this lowered to around £300 million by 2012 as other generic lipid-lowering drugs became available in England.
But the saving seen today from is still significant, with the health service spending around spending £1 million less per day – a boost for the NHS as it looks to make £5 billion in efficiency savings this year alone.
This has been achieved by the price dropping by more than 85% for new generics made by firms such as Teva, which have flooded the market since the launch of atorvastatin in May last year.
Copycat forms of a 28-pack version of the drug, at a 10 mg dose, now costs just £1.89 – the price tag for Lipitor comes in at £13 for the same pack size and dose, according to the British National Formulary.
Kim Innes, chair of the BGMA, said: “The example of atorvastatin and the impact it has had in the first 12 months since coming off-patent demonstrates the value of the mature generic market in the UK.
“A key role of generics is to make the drugs bill more affordable for the NHS allowing resources to be spent elsewhere on patient care, including on truly new medicines developed to address unmet patient needs.”
There had been concern from some generic firms making atorvastatin that the Category M tariff would mean these savings would not be realised until several months after Lipitor lost its patent.
But a spokesman for the BGMA said: “On this occasion, the Department of Health used monthly data from Category M, rather than quarterly, so the tariff followed market pricing more closely therefore contributing price reductions more quickly to the NHS.”
At its peak, Pfizer's drug was the highest selling medicine in the world, bringing in $13 billion a year globally, in turn helping the US firm to become the world's biggest pharma company by revenue. But the loss of its Lipitor patent around the world in the past 18 months has seen it lose its crown, with Sanofi now expected to inherit its throne.