For the past few weeks, I’ve been regularly hearing a new advertisement for Lipitor when I’m driving in my car. This ad encouraging people to keep taking Lipitor rather than switching to a generic medication for their high cholesterol. The ad makes a point of arguing that Lipitor is one of the most effective cholesterol medications out there and that there is no generic form of it. They close the ad by asking in a concerned voice, “If you’re taking Lipitor for high cholesterol and it’s working, why switch?”
Every time I hear that question, I want to pull a Barney Frank and ask the narrator in the ad, “Just how stupid are you? Or do you just think we’re stupid?” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the number one reason someone might choose to switch from Lipitor to a generic medication: Generic medications cost significantly less money and not all of us are made of money.
I took Lipitor for a year or so when my blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol were all in trouble. Even with my insurance, a one month supply cost me $25. According to one New York Times article, The cost of a one month supply without insurance would range from $75 to $90. That’s a lot of money for a person to be paying out each month for a single health maintenance medication. And bear in mind that most people on Lipitor are probably also on other medications for other long term conditions like high blood pressure. That adds up. So it’s little wonder that people are looking at their shrinking wallets — especially in our current economy — and asking their doctor to give them a generic option that they can get for as little as $3 a month.
Now, if Pfizer was really concerned about people switching to less effective medicine, I would expect them to do something to make their more effective Lipitor a more viable option for most people. The most obvious way to do that would be to lower the price. And from a business standpoint (though I really have no tolerance for anyone who thinks of maintaining and improving human health as a business, to be quite frank), it also makes sense. It’s how the principle of supply and demand is supposed to work.
But no, instead of doing that, Pfizer instead decides to launch a propaganda — I’m sorry, advertising — campain. Rather than making their product more affordable for those who really need it — those they claim to be concerned about — they instead decide to spend millions on advertisements telling how much better better Lipitor is than the inferior generics. They pay people to do “research” showing how generic options are not as effective or safe as Lipitor. In effect, rather than trying to help out the people they express concern over by lowering their prices, they try to scare those people into paying money they probably don’t have in the first place.
Have I mentioned that I think pharmaceutical companies are evil?