I just got this email from AstraZeneca via Pharmacist eLink, which is a National Community Pharmacists Association site sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry (click on image for an enlarged view):

As readers of this blog know, my doctor once recommended I switch to Crestor from my generic pravastatin, which costs me about $7 per month via mail order (it would cost me $4 if I weren’t so lazy and got it at Wall Mart). After my doctor received “speaking fees” and food from Pfizer, she recommended I switch to Lipitor because it was going off patent.

My personal experience is just one example of how Pfizer’s “Save Lipitor” strategy is upsetting the statin apple cart these days.

Back to the Crestor email ad I received. First of all, this email is supposedly aimed at pharmacists who signed up to be members of the Pharmacist eLink Web site. Of course, I was able to sign up without proving that I was a pharmacist. I suggest that savvy healthcare consumers would do the same. Consequently, this ad may reach many consumers.

But AstraZeneca is trying to offer pharmacists an alternative to Pfizer’s deal with PBMs that encourages pharmacists to provide “generic Lipitor” when fulfilling prescriptions for generic statins such as pravastatin. To grease the wheels of that deal, Pfizer is offering consumers a rebate that in many cases would drive the copay down to $4 per month.

But the Crestor offer doesn’t sound too competitive to me: It offers a “Savings” card that promises consumers can get “CRESTOR for just $8 more than the copay of a generic statin.” That is, the maximum copay would be $18 ($8 more than the average $10 copay for generics).

What consumer would be impressed by offers that cost more than what they are already used to paying? And $18 is considerably more than the $4 they would pay for generic Lipitor.

One mitigating factor, however, is that the Crestor “Savings” card will cover a 12-month supply, whereas Pfizer’s savings plan expires in 6 months.

After I posted this, I received the following clarification from a Media Relations person at Pfizer: “I read your post today, and I think you may be confusing the Lipitor For You co-pay card with our brand loyalty programs with PBMs and health plans during the 180 exclusivity period that make the branded Lipitor available to patients at a total cost that is lower than the generic alternative.

The only inaccuracy was saying the co-pay card was good for 6 months. It is actually good until the end of next year. It did appear you were blurring the lines between the two programs.”

IMHO, the Crestor offer seems likely to fail and will have absolutely no impact on keeping Crestor competitive.

BTW, Pharmacist eLink has a lousy privacy policy and a bogus opt-out mechanism. When I click on the link to unsubscribe, what I get is merely a form to “Update your account settings” (see below), which does NOT have any “unsubscribe” option.

Meanwhile, the Pharmacist eLink privacy policy regarding opting out merely states “You may request not to be contacted by Pharmacist e-Link in connection with any new services, updates, or promotions. Requests not to be contacted by e-Link should be sent to info@pharmacistelink.com.”

This is not a very user-friendly opt-out process. I will contact “info@pharmacistelink.com” and notify them of my displeasure — as if I didn’t have more important things to do!