Copycat Lipitor hits in 4 EU countries

Generic Lipitor is on the ground in four more markets. Ranbaxy Laboratories launched its version of the Pfizer ($PFE) cholesterol blockbuster in Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands, while its German subsidiary unveiled the Lipitor copy in that country. The launches, two months ahead of patent expiration, come under an agreement with Pfizer.

Ranbaxy will go solo on marketing its atorvastatin products in the first three countries, at least for now. The company will promote it to retailers and wholesalers in Italy and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, in Sweden it will offer the product directly to pharmacies under the government's reimbursement scheme. The branded version racked up more than half a billion in sales in those three markets last year (but that, of course, is at branded prices).

In Germany, Ranbaxy will market the copycats jointly with parent company Daiichi Sankyo's domestic subsidiary. Daiichi already has "substantial reach" among cardiologists and other doctors in the German market, Ranbaxy said. It's the first time that the two units will work together on a launch. "It is a true pilot project by which we will kick off the hybrid business model between the two companies in Germany," Ralf Göddertz, Daiichi's managing director there, said in a statement.

Knockoff Lipitor has been available in the U.S. since patent expiration Nov. 30, with Ranbaxy having the sole independent copycat version, and Watson Laboratories ($WPI) handling the authorized generic. Thanks to some aggressive moves to hang on to market share, however, Pfizer has kept hold of a better-than-average percentage of post-patent sales. But with European governments emphasizing cost-control and generic use, competition there will likely drain away sales rather quickly.

- see the release from Ranbaxy
- here's another Ranbaxy release
- read the Reuters news