How can pharmaceutical marketing evolve with generic entry? The example of Lipitor

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Lipitor’s marketing strategy underwent a significant evolution as generic competition emerged, employing aggressive tactics to retain market share and brand loyalty. Here are some key points with examples:

Urging Patients to Stay on Brand

  • Pfizer launched an unprecedented “Why go off Lipitor?” campaign, with ads urging patients to stick with the branded drug instead of switching to generics. The ads claimed “If Lipitor is working for you, why switch?”[3]

Exclusivity Deals with Insurers

  • Pfizer made deals with major pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) like Medco and Catalyst Rx to block coverage of generic atorvastatin for many insurance plans for the first six months after generics launched. This forced patients to stay on branded Lipitor during that exclusivity period.[3]

Direct Sales Channels

  • Pfizer set up its own mail-order pharmacy called Lipitor For You to sell the branded drug directly to patients at generic prices if their insurance didn’t cover it.[3]
  • It also offered discount cards for uninsured patients to purchase Lipitor at a lower cost.

Emphasizing Brand Loyalty

  • Initially projecting modest $300 million annual Lipitor sales, Pfizer aggressively marketed its superior cholesterol-lowering ability shown in clinical trials, helping make it the best-selling drug ever with over $130 billion in revenue.[1][4]
  • As the patent expiry neared, Pfizer executed a comprehensive lifecycle management strategy years in advance to extend Lipitor’s branded sales and capture generic atorvastatin market share.[4]

So while generics typically cause a rapid brand abandonment, Pfizer employed multi-pronged tactics like exclusivity deals with insurers, direct sales channels, discount programs, and emphasizing Lipitor’s brand loyalty to significantly delay erosion from generic competition.[1][3][4]


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