Ranbaxy and US drug major Pfizer have agreed to extend the latter’s market monopoly of its blockbuster anti-cholesterol medicine Lipitor in the US by 20 months. Lipitor is the world’s largest selling drug with worldwide annual sales of USD 12.7 billion.
Pfizer’s patent on Lipitor expires in March 2010. Under the settlement, Ranbaxy can sell generic versions of Lipitor in the US only from November 30, 2011. The agreement will, however, allow Ranbaxy to sell its generics in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Australia when patents expire in these countries.
“This comprehensively settles outstanding issues between Ranbaxy and Pfizer bringing to closure a number of patent disputes,” said Ranbaxy chief executive Malvinder Singh in a statement.
Lipitor (generic name atorvastatin) belongs to the class of drugs called statins used to lower blood-vessel blocking cholesterol levels. The generic market for the drug in India is Rs 300 crore, with an annual growth of 30 per cent.
Lipitor costs almost USD 3 (Rs 120) for a day’s dosage in the US, where the market is worth USD 7 billion. In India, almost 20 drug companies sell generic Lipitor priced between Rs 4 and Rs 10 for a day’s dosage.
“Most patients are very price sensitive and the price makes it possible for millions to take it safely every day for the rest of their lives. In fact, the low price in India has made drug compliance to statins a high 90 per cent in India as compared to 30 per cent in the US,” says Dr Ashok Seth, chief cardiologist and chairman, Max Heart & Vascular Institute.
Once Pfizer’s patent expires, prices are expected to fall in the US by mid 2012. “Prices fall by at least 20 per cent in the US once the first generic hits the market. The fall becomes sharper once other generics follow,” says Dr C.M. Gulati, editor, Monthly Index of Medical Specialities.