In the next 24 months, six out of 10 top-selling drugs on the American market will witness their patents expiring, opening up for copy drugs that could lower the price by up to 80%.
Some of the medication affected will be products such as Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug that has long held the position as the top-selling drug in the world. When its patent ends in November, it will face competition from its generic equivalent atorvastatin. Other brand names on the list include Zyprexa, and anti-psychotic which will lose patent in October and the popular blood thinner Plavix, by May 2012.
With the upcoming boom in generic drugs comes a renewed debate on the comparability of copies versus brand names. According to the FDA, there is limited risk in choosing the generic drug. A study from researchers at KRKA, one of the world’s leading generic pharmaceutical companies, conclude on the comparison of Lipitor and atorvastatin: “Both the generic and the reference atorvastatin were equally effective in correcting the lipid profile and reducing calculated absolute coronary risk in patients with hyperlipidemia and increased coronary risk. Both treatments were equally well tolerated.”
Despite these assurances, other studies have found that not all generics act exactly the same way as the brand-name drugs. According to the Los Angeles Times, a study by John Hopkins University showed there is around 10% chance of change in peak concentration of a generic anti-epilepsy drug when switching from a brand name. The general advice is to switch only on your doctor’s advice.