Nightly News | November 15, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There's big news tonight for the millions of Americans who take statins every day, like the big seller Lipitor , to lower cholesterol levels. How much you pay for your medicine could be changing very soon. Our report tonight from our chief science correspondent Robert Bazell .
ROBERT BAZELL reporting: The cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor is by far the most profitable drug ever. It generated $106 billion for its manufacturer, Pfizer , over the past decade. But at the end of this month, Pfizer 's patent expires and lower cost generic alternatives will go on the market.
BAZELL: That will leave Crestor , made by AstraZeneca , as the only drug in the class called statins still under patent, able to sell for 150 to $200 a month as opposed to a fraction for a generic version. That's why the makers of Crestor paid for a large experiment to try to show their drug is better. One thousand volunteers took one of the drugs over two years, while special ultrasounds measured the amount of heart attack causing plaque in their arteries. Crestor reduced cholesterol slightly more, but overall there was no difference.
Dr. STEVEN NISSEN (Cleveland Clinic): The drugs were equally effective. They both produced a reduction in plaque volume.
BAZELL: Showing, experts say, they both have the same effect on heart disease. The winners are the millions who take Lipitor . Now there is more evidence the drug is effective, and, Brian , soon it will cost less.
WILLIAMS: And there are new patients born every day. Bob Bazell , thanks, as always.