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Pfizer sales staff face redundancy as patent expires on cholesterol drug

Cost of drug should be driven down by production of generic versions of Lipitor – but it will also be a factor in 30 sales staff in Ireland losing their jobs.

Image: Dan Kitwood/PA Images

PFIZER PHARMACEUTICALS IS set to lose a lot of sales in a popular cholesterol-fighting drug as the company’s patent on it runs out. The expected flood of other-brand and generic versions of the active ingredient in drug Lipitor is one factor in around 30 sales staff in Ireland being told they will be let go from their jobs.

The drug company confirmed the redundancies at the weekend and, as reported in TheJournal.ie last month, it won’t be the last of Pfizer’s difficulties as patents on other drugs which they make are also due to run out. Bloomberg had estimated that there could be as much as a 52 per cent drop in sales of Lipitor by 2013.

Pfizer sold its Shanbally, Ringaskiddy plant in Co Cork to BioMarin pharmaceutical company in June this year while Amgen took over Pfizer’s plant in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin in March.

Rival pharmaceutical companies are gearing up to produce their own branded versions of Lipitor (atorvastatin) as they anticipate the expiration of the Pfizer patent.The Times of India, for example, notes that the Teva and Ranbaxy pharmaceutical companies had teamed up to bring the drug to market to the US, where the patent ran out in June.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported this month that Lipitor brought Pfizer more than €7 billion in revenue in 2010 alone. The generic version of the drug will cut costs for the US health system, the Journal concluded, while still being effective for patients.

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