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    Generic Cholesterol Meds a Boon for Patients

    The costs of cholesterol-lowering medications on the overall health-care system are expected to decline, thanks to recent generic launches.

    In June, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Sun Pharmaceuticals began selling generic ezetimibe (Zetia) tablets, 10 mg, in the United States. The move is expected to offer stiff competition to Merck, the maker of Zetia, a drug that has realized annual sales of around $2.7 billion in the United States as of March 2017, according to QuintilesIMS data.

    Zetia, designed to lower levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood, can be used by itself or with other medicines to treat high cholesterol.

    According to the American Heart Association (AHA), approximately one-third of American adults (73.5 million people) have high LDL cholesterol, but fewer than 50% of them are being treated for the condition. Around 30% have their condition under control, according to Teva Pharmaceuticals.

    “Despite advances in the treatment of high cholesterol in recent years, many people are still living with active disease and are in need of additional generic therapeutic options,” said Dipankar Bhattacharjee, President and CEO for Global Generic Medicines for Teva. “We are excited to add another strong generic to our U.S. portfolio and see potential to build on its success by leveraging our expertise in the cardiovascular area.”

    In addition, Sun Pharmaceuticals began selling the first generic version of rosuvastatin calcium (Crestor) in July 2016, after AstraZeneca, Crestor’s manufacturer, failed to block generic competition in a legal battle.

    “We are glad to see that the court rejected AstraZeneca’s effort to abuse the Orphan Drug Act and restrict generic competitors to Crestor,” said John Rother with the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing. “Additional competition in the prescription drug market—including generic options—is crucial to lowering prescription drug prices and providing patients with more affordable choices,” Rother said in a statement when generic rosuvastatin came onto the market.

    Since the launch of generic counterparts, sales of Crestor have plummeted. Crestor’s revenue fell 44% globally to $631 million in the first quarter of 2017.

    In addition, AstraZeneca’s total revenue declined 7% to $23 billion in 2016 because of a 10% decline in product sales, according to GuruFocus. According to the site, “The biggest reason for the company’s poor performance last year was falling sales of Crestor, which has lost patent protection in the U.S. and is seeing intensifying competition from generics.”

    In addition to generic Crestor and Zetia, the long-available generic versions of atorvastatin calcium (Lipitor, from Merck) produced the most cost savings of any generic drug in 2016, according to the Association for Accessible Medicine’s report, “2017 Generic Drug Savings and Access in the U.S.”

    More than 106 million generic atorvastatin prescriptions were dispensed in 2016, saving the U.S. health-care system $14.4 billion, according to the report.

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