Generics slash Pfizer's Lipitor sales

Competition has hit Pfizer's ($PFE) blockbuster Lipitor, and hit it hard. Sales of the cholesterol drug dropped by half barely a week after it started facing generic competition in the U.S., according to IMS data.

In fact, the number of Lipitor prescriptions filled in the 7 days that ended Dec. 9 fell to 359,235-- down from 724,799 filled a month earlier, the AP notes.

But the news isn't as bad for Pfizer as some had expected. "It's already done better than we thought it would, (but) it's a little early in the game to declare this a successful strategy," said Miller Tabak analyst Les Funtleyder when referring to Pfizer's rebate and discount strategies, according to the AP.

As the news service notes, Pfizer has been aggressively trying to keep patients on its branded version. It's been touting its "Lipitor For You" program, offering a card to get Lipitor for a monthly $4 copayment--much less than a typical insurance plan's co-pay of about $50.

Still, this was good news for Ranbaxy Laboratories, which saw its share price gain 3% on reports of the brand's sales decline, India's Economic Times reports. The saga of the Indian drugmaker's trying to get its Lipitor copy to market is well known, with manufacturing snafus and resultant talks with the FDA--it came down to the wire as to whether it would actually get its version approved by the agency. Watson Pharmaceutical ($WPI), the other Lipitor generic competitor, captured roughly 80% of the drug's generic market, with Ranbaxy getting the rest, the Times notes. 

But not all is rosy for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA), which saw its shares decline the most in a month on concern about the sales of Ranbaxy's Lipitor copy. The generics giant is sharing Lipitor profits with Ranbaxy--at least for its first 6 months on the market.

"Teva's weakness reflects investors' disappointment from a lower-than-expected market share of the generic Lipitor since its launch," said Clal Finance Brokerage analyst Jonathan Kreizman, as quoted by Bloomberg.

- read the AP's article
- check out the Economic Times' take
- get more on Teva from Bloomberg