Ranbaxy Laboratories has launched its generic version of Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowereing blockbuster in South Africa.

The Indian drugmaker’s copycat version of Lipitor (atorvastatin) is called Lipogen. It will compete with the branded drug, which has a 33.2% share of the atorvastatin market in South Africa, and an authorized generic, Aspavor, which is sold by Pfizer unit Pharmacia.

Atorvastatin is the second largest molecule in South Africa after AstraZeneca’s antiulcerant Nexium (esomeprazole), Ranbaxy said. The compound has a current market size of $26.1 million.

The Gurgaon-based company claims that Lipogen is “a high-quality generic alternative”, being sold at an affordable price. It added that “favourable reimbursement terms to encourage generic substitution have also been worked out while special distribution arrangements have been made…to improve patient access”. Lipogen is also the first generic in South Africa to carry information in Braille on its packaging.

Ranbaxy clearly sees generic Lipitor as a major opportunity and recently launched its version of the world’s best-selling drug in Canada, called RAN-Atorvastatin. The company and Pfizer reached a deal two years ago that ended virtually all patent litigation worldwide involving Lipitor and gave the New York-based giant 20 extra months of revenues from the blockbuster in the key US market than expected, ie up to November 2011.