Co-pay coupons lifted Lipitor. Can they defend Diovan?

Pfizer's ($PFE) success with co-pay coupons has encouraged other blockbuster-losing Big Pharmas to follow suit. Have the others been able to replicate Pfizer's experience? Yes and no, according to the Associated Press.

After Pfizer announced its "Lipitor For You" program, which included the co-pay assistance and lifestyle support, more than 750,000 people signed up. That's more than Pfizer expected--and it helped the company hang onto some Lipitor market share, if only by its fingernails. It helped that Lipitor faced only one independent generic, because Ranbaxy Laboratories had 180-day exclusivity from the FDA. So, generic prices weren't as low as they would have been otherwise.

The company has now stopped subsidizing insurers' share of Lipitor costs, AP reports. But it extended its consumer program through December 2014 and hiked its monthly maximum from $50 to $75, making sure that most insured patients can still get the brand for less than a monthly generic co-pay.

But Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Plavix co-pay assistance may not have been so helpful. It offered a "Plavix Choice" program that keeps co-pays down to $37 per month, whereas the retail price of the drug is $215. Generics prices dropped as low as $15 almost immediately, though, because no copycat drugmaker had exclusive rights for the first 6 months, as with Lipitor. And as the AP reminds us, BMS' Plavix revenue dropped by 60% for the second quarter--and generics were only on the market for half that time.

The next case study: Diovan and Diovan HCT, the world's top-selling blood pressure brands. The Swiss drugmaker is offering coupons for $4-per-month co-pays, good through December 2013. The company will pay the next $50 per month in out-of-pocket costs, so patients with brand co-pays of $50 or less won't pay more than that $4.

According to the AP,  Diovan and Diovan HCT will each face two generics out of the gate, rather than Plavix's half-dozen-plus. Patent protection expires September 21, so we won't have long to wait for a verdict.

- read the AP story

Related Articles:
Pfizer adds healthy-eating app to Lipitor marketing arsenal
Novartis leans on emerging markets, new meds to offset Diovan drop
Health plans sue Big Pharma over co-pay coupons

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