A leading adviser to NICE has called for restrictions on the use of atorvastatin to be thrown aside after its price tumbled by 93% today, following the expiry of its patent.
The massive drop in cost will save millions for the NHS and is likely to herald a sea-change in GP management of hypercholesterolaemia, with all new patients needing statin treatment placed on the drug in preference to simvastatin.
It comes after the patent for atorvastatin held by Pfizer expired yesterday, and a legal block on prescribing generic versions was lifted.
Pulse revealed earlier this year that GPs were set to be enrolled in schemes to switch patients en masse to atorvastatin after an NHS-commissioned analysis found its price could plummet by as much as 95% when it came off patent.
The upper estimate of the cost reduction has turned out to be realistic, with the highest price for a 28-pill pack of the first UK generic version of 80mg atorvastatin set at £2.26, compared to £28.21 for the branded version, Lipitor.
The price of other doses of the generic drug – manufactured by Teva UK – are set at 91p for a 10mg pack and £1.72 for both 20mg and 40mg packs. This compares with current prices of £13.00 and £24.64 respectively for a month’s Lipitor supply.
Kim Innes, commercial director at Teva, said: ‘We’re delighted to be able to launch atorvastatin in the UK on the day its patent expires.’
‘Millions of prescriptions are written each year in the UK for atorvastatin, and the availability of the generic will save the NHS millions of pounds each year.’
Dr John Ashcroft, a GP in Ilkeston, Derbyshire and clinical lead for Erewash CCG, said the price drop was very good news for drug budgets, but he would wait until the tariff price fed through before switching his patients.
‘When I see the price being virtually no different to simvastatin, then I will almost certainly use only atorvastatin as it is well tolerated.’
Dr Rubin Minhas, clinical director of the BMJ Clinical Evidence Centre and a GP in Hoo, Kent, said: ‘Atorvastatin is now the cholesterol lowering treatment of choice. GPs should begin switching their patients across from simvastatin.’