Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Pfizer! Protest It's Deal to Block Sales of Generic Lipitor! #OccupyPFE

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!"

I love that line from the 1976 movie Network. The whole scene in which fictional news anchor Howard Beale goes on a "rant" is even more appropriate today. You can watch the YouTube version at the end of this post.

Today, however, I'm mad as hell at Pfizer in particular and plan to boycott its products or even "occupy" its corporate headquarters in NYC -- or maybe symbolically "occupy" it here on the Social Media Network and urge my readers -- much as Beale urged his fictional UBS Evening News viewers -- to at least stand up and say to Pfizer "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!"

Why am I mad as hell at Pfizer? I just read a story in the New York Times that explains how Pfizer has reached a deal with several PBMs -- middlemen between drug companies (the sellers) and insurers and employers that sponsor insurance plans (the buyers) -- the results of which is that "many drugstores are being asked to block prescriptions for a generic version of Pfizer’s Lipitor starting Dec. 1, when the company loses its patent for the blockbuster cholesterol drug and generic competition begins" (see "Pfizer-PBM Deal Means Many Drugstores Will Delay Sales of Generic for Lipitor").

That's why I just issued my Howard Beale "call to action" via a Twitter post: "Pfizer-PBM Deal Means Many Drugstores Will Delay Sales of Generic for Lipitor: @pfizer_news: I'm mad as hell!"

Recall that I wrote a recent spoof about Pfizer's plans to keep Lipitor alive in the market (see "Lipitor Won't Go Gentle Into that Good Generic Night"). Little did I realize, however, that the PBM-Pfizer deal would result in drug stores refusing to substitute the generic version when filling prescriptions for Lipitor or to give patients Lipitor even when the prescription is for a generic version. The reason is that because of the rebates Pfizer offers to the PBMs, the co-pay for Lipitor scripts will be lower than the amount the patient would have to pay for the generic! The PBMs pocket the profits, wheres the payers (taxpayers like me and employers like me) get stiffed with the higher bill for Lipitor scripts.

"Raymond F. Kerins, a Pfizer vice president and spokesman, issued a statement saying Pfizer was committed to supporting patients’ continued access to Lipitor. He declined to answer further questions Friday afternoon," reported the NY Times. Typical of Kerins, who does not like to reveal much (see "Pfizer, Show Us Your Social Media 'Playbook'").

Most patients taking Lipitor won't even know what's going on except that their out-of-pocket co-pay will be decreased. But as more patients pay a portion of their employer-sponsored healthcare coverage, they should be concerned that employers may pass along the added expense (to them) to their employees. And even though the Pfizer-PBM deal will end in six months and Lipitor co-pays will rise back up, it would still hurt employers who will remember the shakedown when they adjust their employee benefit plans!

I also have a personal stake in this because my Doctor -- who has received payments from Pfizer in 2010 (see "Physician Bailout: On Average, Pharma Pays Every US Physician Over $750 Per Year") -- wants me to switch from a generic of Pravachol to brandname Lipitor to control my high cholesterol level. Just on the basis of the above story and the fact that my doctor was wined and dined by Pfizer, I feel that I should boycott Lipitor until I can truly get a generic version.

Am I putting my health at risk by refusing Lipitor? I don't think so. When I think how mad and helpless I would feel while taking Lipitor because of this PBM-Pfizer deal, my blood pressure would rise and I would be at greater rise of having a heart attack. I wouldn't, however, be at a greater risk of committing suicide as Howard Beale did in the movie Network, unless, of course, I was also taking Chantix!

I urge you to post a note to Pfizer on Twitter (@pfizer_news) and say that you oppose its PBM kickback plan and that you are now "occupying" Pfizer by sending out daily tweets with a similar message until Pfizer backs down. Use the hash tag #OccupyPFE (PFE is Pfizer's stock symbol -- a fitting acronym considering Pfizer's deal will mainly benefit its investors).

Here's the "mad as hell" scene from Network:

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