The most popular Rx’d drug in America, Lipitor, went generic this week as atorvastatin. Lipitor sales were $8.7 billion last year, and 3.3 million people take it. If you have insurance, request the generic. Watch your copayment drop from $25 per month to a generic copayment to $10.
If you don’t have insurance and pay out-of-pocket, your cost will go from ~$150 a month to maybe $15, in about 6 months.
But is Lipitor a bargain at 90% off? Yes and no.
Yes: if you have diagnosed heart disease, statins prevent one death for every 48 patients treated for 3 to 5 years. I recommend them.
No: if you don’t have heart disease, statins taken daily, as directed, prevent one heart attack (a nonfatal one) for every 60 patients treated for 4 years. Because the reason to improve cholesterol is to prevent heart attack and death from heart disease.
Statins do cause many extra costs: liver testing every 3 months, worries about calf and thigh pain and myopathy, and for a few unfortunates, rhabdomyolysis: basically, liquid muscles and kidney failure. Lipitor especially interacts with beer, wine, chapparal, comfrey, grapefruit and St. Johns wort. And antifungal meds, calcium channel blockers, cyclosporine, niacin, fibrates and digoxin.
What could you do instead?
You could take an effective dietary supplement, like Plant Sterols or Plant Sterols (Caramel). You could read about lowering cholesterolt in Controlling Cholesterol for Dummies, or learn what the Wall Street Journal and New York Times advise, highlighted on this blog. You could discover other ways to save on prescription drugs.