Prescriptions for higher doses of Lipitor jumped 12% for the week ending Aug. 18, The Boston Globe reported.
The increase was fueled by the promotion of a recent Pfizer-funded study on the drug’s impact on stroke, the report said.
In recent weeks, Pfizer has sent thousands of sales reps to doctors’ offices with the goal of convincing physicians that higher doses of Lipitor are more effective than generic statins in protecting patients’ hearts. In particular, reps have been instructed to point to the Pfizer-sponsored study, which said Lipitor in high doses reduces the chance that stroke survivors will be stricken again.
“It’s been part of our strategy that we ought to be encouraging physicians to move their patients to the higher doses,” said Peter Brandt, Pfizer’s head of US pharmaceuticals during a recent earnings call.
The Pfizer-sponsored study on Lipitor’s stroke impact was written by 11 authors—all who were either Pfizer employees or reported financial ties to the company.
The study, which appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), links daily 80 mg Lipitor doses with a 16% reduction in the risk of a repeat stroke.
An editorial appearing in NEJM last month may provide an additional driver for Lipitor growth.
The editorial’s author, Dr. David Kent, said the Lipitor stroke study adds “gathering momentum” that could convince insurers to count statin use as a measure of “quality” after-stroke care. Kent reported receiving grant support from Pfizer.