Generic versions of Pfizer's blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor could save the NHS up to £350m a year, following the drug's looming patent exclusivity.
The British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) has said initial savings for the 12 months following the drug's patent expiry could reach £250m, but this saving could rise to £350m a year should prices continue to drop.
The NHS currently spends in excess of £400m on Lipitor, but generic competition is expected to reduce the cost of the drug by as much as 85%, as cheaper versions flood the market.
BGMA director general Warwick Smith said that Lipitor's patent expiry is hugely significant for the NHS, with generic medicines making the drugs bill affordable for the NHS.
"Patent protection is necessary to ensure that originator companies such as Pfizer may make a financial return on their investment; but it is generic competition that sustains innovation. Without competition from generic products, originators could continue to make their money out of established products and the patent system would simply not work effectively in encouraging the development of new products," said Smith.
Generic drugs are considered as vital for reducing an NHS drugs bill that is becoming increasingly unaffordable. At present, 67.4% of medicines dispensed by the NHS are generics, but these drugs accountt for only 29.6% of the total drugs bill. Without generic medicines, the drugs bill would be approximately twice its current level.
In order to allay the impact of Lipitor's patent expiry, Pfizer has struck deals with India's Ranbaxy and Israel's Teva Pharmaceuticals for the development of generic versions of the drug.
Image: GBMA director general Warwick Smith has spoken of the potentially lucrative cost savings that generic versions of Lipitor could bring. Image courtesy of: The British Generic Manufacturers Association.