Pfizer launches next new Lipitor copay program, Medicare and ACA included

Pfizer ($PFE) hasn't given up on pumping Lipitor for sales. Its latest marketing tactic? A replay of its bid to keep scripts coming after the statin drug lost patent protection in 2011. The company is rolling out another copay discount program, Lipitor Choice.

The plan makes Lipitor supercheap for many patients--and very cheap for the rest. It is also open to patients covered by some government programs. If the program works for Lipitor, a Pfizer exec tells the Associated Press, the company may expand it.

"We are very keen to see how patients and physicians respond," Sean Rapson, who heads up innovation for the company's established products unit, told the AP. "If there's great interest, we would consider trying it with other medicines."

Pfizer has already chalked up a win for Lipitor via copay discounts. When the drug fell off patent in November 2011, the company was ready with its Lipitor for You program, which not only cut copays for patients but also made the drug affordable for health plans, too. Some 750,000 people signed up. The effort helped stanch the bleeding from generic competition to the megablockbuster drug.

It was so successful, in fact, that cost watchdogs are still worried about other drugmakers trying similar techniques with their newly off-patent meds.

Under Pfizer's new program, patients enrolled in Lipitor Choice can get the drug for just $4 per month, if they're covered by private insurance and their usual out-of-pocket cost for the drug would be $130 or less.

A $30-per-month charge applies to patients who are either privately insured with out-of-pocket charges of more than $130 per month; covered by Medicare Part D or an Affordable Care Act Exchange plan; or without insurance at all. Medicare Part D and ACA patients can't use their government prescription benefits to cover their Lipitor expenses.

As the AP notes, Pfizer picks up the cost difference at the pharmacy--and 98% of pharmacies are now accepting the Lipitor Choice card.

Meanwhile, Pfizer is taking another tack to keep Lipitor revenue coming: It's trying to persuade the FDA to allow it to sell Lipitor over the counter. Analysts predict that OTC status could add up to $1 billion to the drug's sales.

- read the story from the AP

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