Actavis challenges Lipitor in Spain

Lipitor, the big gorilla drug of Big Pharma, has a challenger. Made by Pfizer, the cholesterol-fighter faces a copycat upstart made by Iceland's Actavis. The generic launch taking place in Spain is the biggest threat Pfizer has seen to its top-selling drug--and it's coming up to two years before Lipitor patents start to expire.

It's not the first time Actavis has flouted Lipitor patent coverage. It launched a generic version in Iceland in 2006, the Financial Times reports. Since then is has moved its atorvastatin into 14 other countries including UKraine and Hong Kong. Deputy chief executive Gudbjorg Edda Eggertsdottir told the FT that her company's version has been approved by 10 European drug regulators, and that she plans to move into other western European markets soon.

Eggertsdottir wouldn't say how much Actavis would discount its version off the brand-name price in Spain. In that country, Lipitor is the top-selling drug with some $575 million in sales in 2008.

In responding to the launch, Pfizer emphasized the fact that Actavis' version in Spain is atorvastatin magnesium, rather than Pfizer's atorvastatin calcium, "which has been demonstrated in an extensive clinical program and which Pfizer will continue to support." The company said it intends to "vigorously defend" our intellectual property. We'll see how that goes.

- read the FT story