Is There a Generic Substitute for Lipitor?

Lipitor Has a Generic Version Called Atorvastatin

generic medication

A question from a reader: My health plan has refused to refill my prescription for Lipitor 20mg and wants me to go on a generic form of medication to lower my cholesterol. I have a problem with my heart and there is a history of heart disease in my family.

My physician filed a request to fill the Lipitor but my health plan has refused the request. Is the generic medication for my high cholesterol any good?

Thanks for writing. I'm sorry to hear that you are having problems with your health plan. Although they refused your physicians's request, you do have the right to appeal that decision. The benefits book from your health plan should give you directions about how to appeal a medical decision.

However, because so many people use generic medications to good effect, I doubt that your health plan will reverse its decision. If you start taking a generic medication and it does not work or if you are allergic to any of the inactive ingredients in the new medication, your physician can refile a complaint with your health plan. Please rest assured that the vast majority of generic medications are no different from their brand-name counterparts.

You also have the option of paying out-of-pocket for your Lipitor (atorvastatin), but it is quite expensive.

In 2011, atorvastatin, the generic form of Lipitor, hit the market.

The development of a generic version of Lipitor was an eventuality. During its run, Lipitor brought in a cyclopean $125 billion for its maker Pfizer.

Lipitor belongs to a class of medications known as statins. Statins are uniquely effective medications due to their ability to to stabilize plaques in coronary arteries and thus prevent future heart disease.

Some other statins do have generic versions, including:

  • Mevacor: generic = lovastatin
  • Pravachol: generic = pravastatin
  • Zocor: generic = simvastatin

On a related note, there is no generic equivalent for the statin Crestor. Crestor is a preferred statin for the treatment of high cholesterol among some primary care physicians and specialists.

Typically, generics work just as well and have just the same adverse effects as their brand-name counterparts. Most people prefer generic medications because the co-pay on generic versions of drugs is lower, resulting in lower out-of-pocket costs.

For more information please read the following article: Are Generic Drugs as Safe and Effective as Brand-Name Drugs? This article answers questions about generic medications compared with brand name medications and provides information about how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works to assure that generic medications are safe.

Content edited by Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, on 1/30/2016.

Selected Sources

Angiolillo DJ, Giugliano GR, Simon DI. Chapter 61. Pharmacologic Therapy for Acute Coronary Syndromes. In: Fuster V, Walsh RA, Harrington RA. eds. Hurst's The Heart, 13e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2011. Accessed January 31, 2016.

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