Sarbanes Appeals To FTC Regarding Lipitor

Yesterday, Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) asked the FTC to take action against Pfizer based on the deals they are signing with PBMs that will prevent consumers from accessing generic versions of the cholesterol drug Lipitor.  (see Pharmalot story on this)

“This is a sweet deal for the drug companies at the great expense of consumers, employers and taxpayers,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “At a time when we should be doing more to slow the rising costs of prescription drugs, these types of practices should be prohibited. “

Assuming that this is about savings to the consumer which I think is what the FTC is focused on, I think he missed the point of the deals.  Pfizer is rebating the drug to cost less than the generic which is then prompting PBMs (and payers) to treat brand Lipitor as a generic.  The consumer would pay their generic copay (from what I’ve seen), and they can still go get Lipitor for less then their copay by using the copay card that Pfizer offers making brand Lipitor $4 a month.

This is a brilliant deal by Pfizer to extend the life of the drug (although I’d be upset if I was the authorized generic).  The only potential people losing in this are payers who might not see the impact of the rebate dollars (e.g., carve-in employers).  Most PBMs are sharing the majority of their rebate dollars these days.  The question is how those rebate dollars flow down from there.

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