For over 101 million Americans the news of a generic alternative being available for Zocor® (also known by it’s generic name of simvastatin) could be very good news indeed. High cholesterol affects as many as 1 in 3 Americans, many of who are unable to control their cholesterol levels with diet changes and must resort to taking medication.
The “statin” class of drugs is one of the most popular and effective treatments available for high cholesterol, made up of drugs such as Zocor®, Lipitor®, and Crestor®. These drugs lower cholesterol levels through a one-two punch of increasing the rate of cholesterol removal from the body while slowing down its production. These drugs are usually safe and effective, and patients can expect to remain on them for their lifetime.
Zocor® had generic alternatives approved by the Food and Drug Administration June of this year. The FDA has given its stamp of approval that the generic medication is the same drug compound and put into the same drug form. So what does this mean for someone on a statin for cholesterol reduction? The advent of a popular generic medication can entice many different generic manufacturers into the drug market. One or two manufacturers can drop the retail price of the generic medication to half of the brand name. In a case like simvastatin many manufacturers have expressed an interest in joining the game, which means consumers can expect the generic price to gradually drop to 20% or less of the brand price. Many insurance companies have already made deals to carry simvastatin on their lowest tiers of drug co-pays, which will reduce the co-pay cost for insured Americans.
Many people on one of the other statins, especially Lipitor® which is currently the most popular of these drugs, may feel pressure from their insurance company to switch to the generic simvastatin. Doses of Lipitor up to 20 mg per day can be switched to higher doses of simvastatin and still lower the cholesterol as effectively as before. Some insurance companies have also made deals with Merck, the manufacturer of the brand name Zocor®, to continue to cover the brand over the generic but at a much lower cost. Some people in the industry are concerned this is a bad precedent to set, as discouraging generic drug development can slow their release on the market and extend the time consumers have to pay for the higher priced brands. Many others however think the impact from this will be minimal, but do warn the government should keep an eye on the situation.
For those Americans on lifetime cholesterol treatment this will dramatically decrease the hit to their pocketbooks. You may be able to switch to this generic, but please check with your regular doctor first and make sure this switch is right for you. If you are on another drug in the statin class do not be surprised if you are contacted a few months from now by your insurance company, as they will also want to get in on the savings.