A recent article in the Chicago Tribune reports that patients using Lipitor, Actos, or Plavix may start enjoying savings of up to 90 percent as patents on those drugs expire. The three drugs comprise a significant percentage of the $300 billion brand-name U.S. pharmaceutical market, according to the Tribune.
As patents granting exclusivity to the drugs’ manufacturers expire, cheaper generic versions will begin to enter the market. Lipitor, for example, now costs up to $40 for a one-month supply. However, competing generic forms of the cholesterol-lowering drug could drive the cost down as low as $4 per month-a 90 percent savings.
Among the three drugs the article discusses, Actos is the one directed at the diabetes market. Produced by Takeda for people with type 2 diabetes, Actos (pioglitazone) is a thiazolidinedione, which works by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin. According to Consumer Reports, U.S patients spent $3.5 billion in 2010 for the drug.
Inventions and new drugs win patents so that their originators have time to recoup the costs of research and development. Once those patents expire, other manufacturers can enter the market with generic versions. Generics can be priced much lower because the new sources of supply do not have to create the products from scratch.