Pfizer is in panic mode about its rapid decline in Lipitor sales—in the last 18 months, it has dropped from 40% of the market for cholesterol-lowering drugs to 30%, and likely to drop further—so it’s launched a big media-blitz to convince people not to switch to simvastatin, the generic version of its name-brand competitor, Zocor. Zocor was more expensive than Lipitor, so Pfizer had nothing to worry about for years—but then Zocor lost its patent protection last year, and now doctors are switching patients from Lipitor over to Zocor’s generic twin to save money.
One of strongest claims Pfizer is making is that patients who switch have a higher risk of death, but the in-house study they cite is being criticized by doctors:
But independent researchers say that limitations in the study, which was conducted by Pfizer’s own researchers, gives it little predictive power about what will happen to patients who take simvastatin instead of Lipitor. And they say the study is far less important than large clinical trials that have shown simvastatin’s effectiveness at reducing cholesterol.
Pfizer is also running print and broadcast ads that skirt the details by simply claiming that not all cholesterol-lowering drugs are the same, and that there is no generic version of Lipitor—both statements of fact, but possibly irrelevant for many patients who would do just fine on generic Zocor.
Of course, your doctor will know better than a blog whether you should switch:
For patients with extremely high cholesterol, Lipitor may be a better choice. An 80-milligram daily dose of Lipitor, the top dose, can reduce cholesterol by up to 60 percent, compared with about 50 percent for an 80-milligram dose of simvastatin, also the top dose.”