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Lipitor Loses Patent, Generic Options To Arrive Soon

Lipitor (atorvastain calcium) tablets made by Pfizer and distributed by Parke-Davis are seen November 30, 2011 in Washington, DC. Pfizer's patent on the best-selling drug of all-time, the cholesterol-lowering medication Lipitor, expired on November 30, 2011, opening the path to generic competitors for America's most popular medication. Lipitor came on the market in 1997, and has raked in some $100 billion for Pfizer even in a crowded market that includes various other cholesterol-lowering statins, many of which have already gone generic. In the United States, anti-cholesterol drugs account for 255 million prescriptions a year, and about nine million people are taking Lipitor. (Photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Lipitor (atorvastain calcium) tablets made by Pfizer and distributed by Parke-Davis are seen November 30, 2011 in Washington, DC. Pfizer’s patent on the best-selling drug of all-time, the cholesterol-lowering medication Lipitor, expired on November 30, 2011, opening the path to generic competitors for America’s most popular medication. Lipitor came on the market in 1997, and has raked in some $100 billion for Pfizer even in a crowded market that includes various other cholesterol-lowering statins, many of which have already gone generic. In the United States, anti-cholesterol drugs account for 255 million prescriptions a year, and about nine million people are taking Lipitor. (Photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

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(CBS) – The best selling drug of all time is going generic. Lipitor lost its patent protection on Wednesday.

Approximately 3.3 million patients depend on Lipitor to lower their cholesterol.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports on the effect newer and cheaper generic versions of the medication could have on your wallet.

She may serve up artery-challenging fare, but thanks to the drug Lipitor, Rosemarie Davino is among the tens of millions who’ve seen their cholesterol drop to healthy levels.

“I don’t have to worry since I am on it,” said Davino, in an interview at her restaurant “Pompeii” in Little Italy.

In a cardiologist’s waiting room, it’s not hard to find similar stories.

“I had total cholesterol of about 230, I went down to 125 within a three-month period, Says Gerri Sommerville from the River West neighborhood.

Lipitor’s impact has helped reduce heart attacks and strokes by 40 percent, and cardiovascular death by 50 percent.

Dr. David Stewart with Rush University Medical Center, doesn’t challenge calling it a wonder drug.

“It’s kind of hard to argue with its results,” he says.

At $5 per pill, Lipitor became the first drug to exceed $10 billion a year in sales.

“Oh it’s extremely popular, it’s the best selling drug in history and we probably fill about 20 prescriptions a day,” says Walgreens pharmacist Nancy Salman.

There are similar drugs, all called statins, but aggressive marketing by manufacturer Pfizer helped Lipitor rise to the top.

“Lipitor was well marketed, well received by patients and utilized by doctors,” says Dr. Steve Feinstein with Rush University Medical Center.

With Lipitor’s patent running out, generic versions will soon be for sale for as little as $1 a pill.

Doctors say because they are subject to FDA review, there’s really not a risk they may not work as well.

But Pfizer is trying to hold on to the market, working out incentives with insurance providers and offering coupons for a monthly prescription at only $4, part of the modern day economics of extending lives.

It may take as long as six months for the lower priced generic forms of Lipitor to make it completely to the marketplace.

In the meantime, some other popular brand name drugs are going generic over the next year or so. They include Zyprexa, which treats bipolar disorder; Lexapro, for depression; Plavix, which helps prevent blood clots; and the asthma and allergy drug Singulair.