May 10th, 2012

Atorvastatin Lifts Ranbaxy While Pfizer Abandons Its Lipitor Marketing Efforts

Pfizer will no longer aggressively market Lipitor (atorvastatin), its former crown jewel and the most lucrative pharmaceutical product ever. At the same time, generic drug manufacturer Ranbaxy posted record revenue for the last business quarter, growth fueled largely by sales of generic atorvastatin in the United States.

Pfizer told the Wall Street Journal that it was abandoning efforts to market Lipitor. It said it was no longer selling Lipitor to health plans, that it had stopped using drug reps to promote the drug to physicians, and that it had ceased all Lipitor advertising. The Pfizer move comes after the expiration of the Lipitor patent last fall but immediately prior to May 31, when a host of new generic versions of atorvastatin are expected to enter the marketplace.

Pfizer mounted an aggressive campaign to retain as much of the atorvastatin market as possible in the early days after the loss of market exclusivity. In the first quarter, according to the Journal, Lipitor revenues for Pfizer were $383 million. This was more than most analysts had originally anticipated, until Pfizer rolled out its aggressive campaign, but paled in comparison to the $12.9 billion annual sales of the drug at its peak. Pfizer said it had spent $87 million marketing Lipitor in the quarter.

Also in the first quarter, Ranbaxy sales in the U.S. doubled to $375 million. This was the first full quarter in which the company sold generic atorvastatin. In March, for the first time, Ranbaxy had a greater share of the atorvastatin market than Pfizer, according to Fierce Pharma.

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