The 10 million Americans who take Lipitor to deal with their high cholesterol are about to get some good news. The 20 year patent on the blockbuster prescription drug expires Wednesday, creating an opening for other companies to manufacture cheaper, chemically identical generic versions of the drug. Two companies have products coming out on the market to entice the 3.5 million users of Lipitor away. But Pfizer, the makers of Lipitor − which derives almost a fifth of its revenue from $11 billion in sales of the drug — has its own plan for keeping patients on the name brand.
Michael Kleinrock, director of research development at the IMS Institute for Health Care Informatics, a company that does market research for the health care industry, discusses Pfizer's strategy. Harriet Washington, author of "Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself — And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future," examines the ethics of Pfizer's plan.