PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Generic Drugs Prices, Diminishing Returns?

Yesterday, AARP published its latest Rx Price Watch report, which highlights generic prescription medication price changes from 2006-2013. Generic medication is considered the best avenue towards lower taxpayer and consumer drug costs. In the mid-1980s, passage of the Hatch-Waxman Act helped bring lower cost generic medication to the market faster and fueled intense price competition among generic manufacturers. The result was 1) much lower drug prices on medications that have lost their patents (often 90% lower) and 2) an exceedingly high generic penetration rate with generics comprising 85% of all medication use. AARP’s report suggests that generic drug prices continue to decrease, which is good, but at a much slower rate, “indicating that the era of consistent generic drug price decreases may be coming to an end.”

Stay calm. Generics are still usually much lower cost than the brand names and that will continue to be the case. AARP’s report notes that 2013 had the lowest average generic price decrease (4.1%) since 2006. However, AARP’s data also shows considerable fluctuation in this rate, enough to question whether or not we’re really experiencing a new normal in which generic drug prices no longer decline year after year. For example, the decreases in average generic drug prices that occurred in the prior two years, 2011 and 2012, 9.1% and 14.5%, respectively, were the highest since 2006. These numbers, however, most likely reflect what’s referred to as the “patent cliff” – a time when many patents on blockbuster brand name drugs, such as Lipitor and Plavix, lost their patents, thus allowing much lower cost generics to enter the market. As I see it, we don’t really know the future trend of generic drug prices.

Again, most generic drugs are way cheaper than their brand name counterparts and just as safe and effective. The big generic drug problem is that the cost of some generics has spiked outrageously over the past few years, sometimes beyond the reach of the American consumer. Usually when we talk about insane price increases of brand name drugs year over year the percentages are 10, 20, 30 or even 40%. But the increases for some generics have literally been in the 2000% range! One crazy example, reported by the People’s Pharmacy, showed that the cost of the antibiotic doxycycline skyrocketed from six cents ($.06) to $3.30, a 5500% increase.

In fact, directing you back to our research from November 2014, we found that even brand name versions sold in foreign pharmacies can be MUCH lower cost than the generics sold here! Please keep in mind that those same generics mentioned in our analysis may have already come down in price domestically. So before you buy from an international online pharmacy, check your local pharmacy first.

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How to Save on Lipitor (Atorvastatin), Brand and Generic

For nearly a decade, Pfizer’s Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering medication, was America’s most popular brand name prescription drug. Americans spent a whopping $7.7 billion dollars on it in 2011 (and worldwide sales totaled about $11 billion). Since its U.S. patent expiration over a year ago, an increasing number of Americans have now shifted to lower cost generic versions. Still, some folks are sticking with brand name Lipitor. We’ve identified the best ways to save on brand name and generic Lipitor below.

Generic drugs are often preferable to brands because they are generally much cheaper even though they have the same active ingredients as the original. If you’re concerned about buying generic Lipitor because of the recent recall by Indian drug company Ranbaxy, you should know that there are other manufacturers who make generic Lipitor and generic Lipitor is still widely available. Moreover, it’s likely that Ranbaxy’s version will be back on the market soon. As a matter of personal preference and brand trust some people still prefer Pfizer’s Lipitor to the generic. What is most important is that you can afford and take the medicine that you need.

So where do the Lipitor and Atorvastatin savings stand now? (To skip to the summary of the savings, view the pricing chart).

Brand Lipitor

Online Savings Are Best
Even with generic competition, the cash price of Lipitor remains very expensive domestically – a 30-day supply of Lipitor 20mg is $226 at a local pharmacy in New York City. The absolute greatest savings on Lipitor is achieved by purchasing a three-month supply from an international online pharmacy, from which the lowest price found on is $68. Compare that to $678 at that local pharmacy in NYC and the savings comes out to 90% – over $2,400 annually!

Prescription Drug Discount Card/Coupon
The savings are not very substantial using standard discount cards and coupons. The highest discount we found for standard cards was 18%. However, Pfizer has a more significant savings program…

Pfizer’s Lipitor For You
Pfizer has a Lipitor discount program called Lipitor For You. The program can help you save money, but its marketing is a little deceptive. It claims to lower your out-of-pocket expenses to $4 for a one-month supply of Lipitor. Well, it can do that, and sometimes does. In reality, the Pfizer discount card is actually a $75 coupon, which can reduce your out-of-pocket expense to a minimum of $4. However, if your copay is high enough – over $79 – you will pay more than $4. If you don’t have insurance and the cash price is $226 then the discount of $75 will bring down the cost to $151 – a 33% discount. With Pfizer’s Lipitor program, savings are twice as large as using a normal discount but not as a great as using an international online pharmacy.

Bottom Line: For brand name Lipitor, the maximum savings are found either at an international online pharmacy or the Lipitor For You program, depending on whether or not you have insurance.

Generic Lipitor

Like the brand, the generic cash price can also be very high at local pharmacies — $157.99 at that same NYC pharmacy mentioned above, which is way more expensive that the brand version internationally! While conducting the drug price research for this blog post, the New York City pharmacist we spoke with even agreed; before stating the generic Lipitor price, he said, “It’s very expensive!” Here’s what you can do…

Buying Generic Lipitor Online A Great Deal!
As far as ordering generic Lipitor 20mg online goes, the U.S. has great prices – a three-month supply for $36. The international price is a little lower at $33 ,but you may also have higher overall costs because international shipping fees are higher, not to mention much longer waiting times

Local Pharmacies With A Discount Card Also A Great Deal!!
We’ve discovered that purchasing at your local pharmacy using a discount card is also a great deal – a 30-day supply is about $14.50, and a 90 day supply is $36.50. Keep in mind that when buying locally there are no wait times or shipping fees.

Bottom Line: When it comes to generic Lipitor, our research shows great deals both online and at the local pharmacy so it’s up to you to determine whichever way is most convenient and desirable.

To summarize, discount coupons and online pharmacies in the U.S. or abroad all offer pretty much the same savings on atorvastatin – the generic of Lipitor. When it comes to ordering the brand name version, the best savings depend on a variety of factors. If you have insurance, it depends on your co-pay amount, with the Lipitor For You program offering a great option. If you don’t have insurance and need to pay the cash price in the pharmacy, then Pfizer’s Lipitor from international online pharmacies is clearly your best deal. It will save you about $2,400 a year! Just make sure the online pharmacy is verified by an independent third party, such as those listed on

Brand Lipitor 20 mg Savings (90 day supply)

Program Price Savings over Local Pharmacy Percent savings Annual Savings
Local Pharmacy $677.97
Discount Card Option $555.50 $122.47 18% $489.88
Coupon Option $532.68 $145.29 21% $581.16
U.S. Online Pharmacy $500.30 $177.67 26% $710.68
International Online Pharmacy: $68.00 $609.97 90% $2,439.88

Local pharmacy in New York City, International Online Pharmacy price as found on Prices collected 12/13/2012

Generic Lipitor (Atorvastatin) 20 mg Savings (90 day supply)

Program Price Savings over Local Pharmacy Percent savings Annual Savings
Local Pharmacy $157.99
Discount Card Option $36.50 $121.49 18% $485.96
Coupon Option $36.50 $121.49 18% $485.96
U.S. Online Pharmacy $36.00 $121.99 18% $487.96
International Online Pharmacy: $32.90 $125.09 18% $500.36

Local pharmacy in New York City, International Online Pharmacy price as found on Prices collected 12/13/2012

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Free Atorvastatin – Generic Lipitor – If You Live in the Midwest…

Why spend $194.00 for a three-month supply of generic Lipitor (20 mg), called atorvastatin, at a local pharmacy in Detroit when you can get it for free? We’ve been comparing prices on Lipitor for years, and  we’ve finally found the lowest possible price for its generic alternative – ZERO!

That’s right – Meijer, a Michigan-based chain store with locations throughout the Midwest, is offering atorvastatin for free in all of its pharmacies. Considering over 40 million prescriptions were written for Lipitor last year, Meijer’s price is just what the doctor ordered.

So, if you live near a Meijer store and are in need of atorvastatin, then Meijer is the place to go. On the other hand, if you want to find the lowest price on brand name Lipitor, or other brand name drugs, then comparing prices on is your best bet. You can save 89% or about $2,400 per year just by ordering Lipitor online!

Check out these prices and happy savings!

Brand Name Lipitor Prices

For other medications

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Lipitor Generic in the U.S. More Expensive Than Pfizer’s Brand Lipitor Abroad

Generic Lipitor, called atorvastatin, is now available in U.S. pharmacies but price data shows that it’s actually far more expensive than brand name Lipitor sold abroad. The bottom line with Lipitor and atorvastatin is that for the insured with pharmacy benefits, co-payments for Lipitor, whether brand or generic, will now be very low. But if you must pay for your prescription drugs out of pocket, you can save approximately 70% buying the brand name drug from international online pharmacies instead of the generic drug domestically.  It can mean the difference of annual payments of $1300 for the generic product vs. $400 for the brand name.

Source data: Lipitor Price Comparisons

For more see our press release from yesterday: Generic Lipitor Still More Expensive Than Brand Name Lipitor in Other Countries

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Pfizer Protects Profits Against Generic Lipitor Through Behind the Scene Deals with PBMs

Our last post highlighted the end-of-the-month release of the long-awaited generic version of Lipitor, the most popular cholesterol-lowering drug in America. Brand-name Lipitor, manufactured by drug giant Pfizer, has been one of the key contributors to American’s high drug bills for the past 15 years. A generic version will mean massive savings for some and basic affordability for many.

Last week, however, the New York Times shared that Pfizer (unsurprisingly) wants to block access to that affordable generic. Pfizer is going to offer “large discounts for benefit managers that block the use of generic versions of Lipitor” – “When patients submit a prescription for a generic version of Lipitor, they are to be given Lipitor instead.” So, those covered by the benefit managers who accept the discount will end up paying the same high co-pay, despite the availability of a lower priced drug!

These tactics by the largest drug manufacturer to keep drug prices higher are disappointing but not surprising. After all, in addition to lobbying the U.S. government to prevent safe personal drug importation, it funds programs to scare Americans away from buying its own medication at a lower price from Canada and other countries.

Pfizer’s latest move seems to only affect Americans with health insurance who, under the Pfizer/benefit manager deal, would pay $25 monthly co-pays (instead of $10 per month) – that’s $75 for a three month supply. That’s a stark contrast to Americans without health insurance who can pay $535.00 at a local CVS in New York City. By comparing prices of verified online pharmacies at, the uninsured may at least knock their monthly brand name Lipitor costs to $85.70.

Fortunately, due to the economics of generic drug competition, generic Lipitor prices will eventually offer great savings to the uninsured and we’ll be keeping you updated as those new products come to market.

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