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Question : My doctor wanted to me to switch to the generic version of Lipitor to help me save money. But is it really the same as Lipitor?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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February 17, 2014
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Many of my patients are asking the same question. My answer to them and to you is pretty much my standard advice about most generic drugs. The generic version of Lipitor, called atorvastatin, is highly likely to be just as safe and effective as Lipitor.

The advantage is lower cost. And not just for the health insurance company. You’ll also likely pay a lower copay under your benefits plan.

A generic drug contains the same chemical as the corresponding brand-name drug. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires generic drug manufacturers to make products that are “bioequivalent” to brand-name drugs. That means the generic drug must deliver very similar blood concentrations of the active ingredient.

Many independent researchers have also compared generics with brand-name drugs. The vast majority of them have concluded that generics are just as safe and effective. A Harvard colleague of mine, Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, also came to that conclusion after analyzing 47 studies of various heart medicines, including statins.

The generic atorvastatin was released after Kesselheim’s study. But a more recent study did show that generic atorvastatin is just as effective as Lipitor at improving cholesterol levels.

No one can give you an absolute guarantee that the generic version will be exactly equal to brand-name Lipitor. But you can help make sure that the atorvastatin you buy is reliable. First, buy it from your regular pharmacy. And ask your pharmacist to verify that the drug maker has passed FDA standards.

 

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