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Blues offer incentive to go generic

Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, Rochester Region said Monday it will give a free month’s worth of pills to enrollees willing to switch from brand-name cholesterol drugs to a generic version.
The insurer made the offer after an 85 percent drop in the price brought a 30-day supply of 20 mg.-equivalent cholesterol generics down from $100 to $15. The generic price drop came at the same time Pfizer Inc. upped the price of its popular anti-cholesterol drug, Lipitor, more than 5 percent to $130 for 30 20 mg. tablets, said James Redmond, Blues vice president of communications.
Lipitor is one in a class of cholesterol medications known as statins, which work by changing the way the liver processes fats. Lipitor is still under patent. But beginning in 2003, the patents of similar drugs expired, encouraging more generic drug makers to get into the statin market. This helped to achieve the current drastic price reduction for simvastatins, the generic equivalent of brand-name cholesterol drugs.
The Blues estimate more than 80 percent of current users of 10 mg. to 40 mg. brand-name statins could get comparable cholesterol reduction using simvastatin, said Joel Owerbach M.D., Excellus chief pharmacy officer.

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