Sales of Pfizer’s Lipitor won’t immediately plummet when generic versions of similar cholesterol-lowering drugs appear in pharmacies this year, Pfizer vice chairman David Shedlarz said this week.“To assume (Lipitor sales) will fall off a cliff, that’s not a realistic assessment,” Shedlarz told investors at the annual Deutsche Bank healthcare conference in Boston. Pat Kelly, head of Pfizer’s US Pharmaceutical Division, added, “It won’t be like a light switch, where you pull the switch down and all Lipitor sales go away. It will be more like a shade.” Lipitor’s competitors include Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Pravachol and Merck’s $4 billion –seller Zocor. Pravachol lost its patent protection in April and Zocor is set to lose its patent in June. Lipitor had $12 billion in global sales during 2005, and while Pfizer is hoping to increase sales to $13 billion in 2006, Shedlarz called that goal “aggressive.” Shedlarz said new Pfizer products may help soften the blow of lower Lipitor sales. “We’re going to fight for this product line, to grow it and grow it robustly, don’t get me wrong. We’re not giving up on Lipitor, but we also have a wealth of new product opportunities to balance out the company.”Meanwhile, in a challenge to an FDA ruling, the US District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Ranbaxy Laboratories can market generic Zocor free from competition for half a year.The court ruling goes against an FDA ruling last year to grant as many approvals for generic Zocor manufactures as successfully petitioned the agency. At least a dozen different makers were previously expected to start selling generic copies. The FDA could still appeal the decision or find other arguments to challenge it. And, despite the ruling, Teva will not be totally immune form competition for the six months, since Merck is also expected to be authorized to market a generic Zocor version with partner Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories.
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