Expiring Patents Cheaper Drugs

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 7:28am

Dozens of popular prescription drugs will soon cost less.

A projected $28 billion in drug cost savings is on the way next year alone; and by the end of the decade, that figure will skyrocket to $116 billion.

The patents on dozens of popular brand-name drugs are expiring, meaning consumers can look forward to cheaper generics instead.

Cindy Jo Rush takes Lipitor and Zetia every night to ward off high cholesterol.

"These little bottles right here - extremely expensive little bottles," she says. "Lipitor every month, which I have to take because of hereditary really high triglycerides, costs $159.16."

The Zetia sets her back another $119 per month.

The businesswoman and mother says she doesn't have an alternative than to pay for the pricey pills.

"Your choices are that, or a stroke or a heart attack, which is - I have two daughters. They're 10 and 7. I have to take the pills," Cindy Jo says.

Fortunately, help will soon be on the shelves.

In what pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions calls "a tidal wave," more than 20 brand-name blockbuster pills for chronic conditions will lose their market exclusivity in the next 14 months, and about 120 will lose their by the end of the decade.

That competition means huge savings for customers.

"Lipitor, which is probably one of the top 100 drugs on the market, is going to have an enormous savings for the customers," says pharmacist T.J. DePaola.

DePaola says generic competition drops drug prices by 20% initially, and over time as much as 80% off current prices.

This means insurance companies may pick up the tab also.

"They're not going to pay $4 a pill, but they may pay for $2 a pill," DePaola says.

By 2020, expect to see generics for Plavix, Singulair, Celebrex, Nasonex, and even Viagra.

DePaola says the generics are safe too.

"It's not like it was in 1980 where there was questions and doctors could see a big difference," he says.

Cindy Jo's excited for generic Lipitor later this year. However, she says she can wait.

"I have two young kinds. We have to eat. We have to drive. We just can't pay $300 a month. I'll take my chances until November," she says.

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