Pfizer's Lipitor promos won't keep share up, Watson CEO says

Pfizer ($PFE) continues to roll out the big guns to protect its Lipitor market share, but at least one rival drugmaker says those efforts won't pay off as well as the company hopes. Watson Pharmaceuticals ($WPI) CEO Paul Bisaro figures that Pfizer's share will drop below 40%, after projecting last year that the world's largest drugmaker would hang onto that much as generic rivals were launched.

As Bloomberg reports, Pfizer's share is now around 41%--just a month or so after the first copycat versions hit. One of those versions is actually Watson's, an authorized generic sold in partnership with Pfizer. And that big loss of share comes despite big-time promotions on Pfizer's part. The company is offering co-pay assistance to patients and cutting aggressive deals with pharmacy benefits managers, hoping to keep as many patients on the branded version as possible.

The promotional push doesn't stop at the U.S. borders, either. As InPharm reports, Pfizer just launched a campaign in the U.K. in advance of Lipitor's loss of exclusivity in May. The National Health Service has already been pressuring doctors to switch patients to simvastatin, a.k.a. Zocor, the Merck statin that's already gone generic. In online video messages for doctors, Pfizer counters with the argument that cheaper Lipitor versions are on their way in a few months, so why put patients through a switch?

Whatever Pfizer does, common sense says generics will continue to chip away at its Lipitor brand sales, Bisaro maintains. "Their ability to maintain that 40 percent will probably erode," Bisaro said at a Goldman Sachs conference (as quoted by Bloomberg). "History would indicate that it would come down a little bit."

- see the Bloomberg story
- read the InPharm piece