Since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved this approach, should the trials be succesful, Pfizer would be allowed to market the new torcetrapib-atorvastatin combination as a brand-name drug beyond 2010, when its patent on Lipitor runs out. The FDA approval also would allow Pfizer to avoid the risk of anti-trust litigation, which otherwise might have been engendered by it offering a drug only when "bundled" with another of its products.
The trials would not result in any information about how torcetrapib performs alone, or in combination with a statin other than atorvastatin. Physicians would not have the options of prescribing torcetrapib alone, in combination with generic atorvastatin, or in combination with another statin. Thus this approach would limit scientific data available to physicians and researchers, and would limit therapeutic options for patients.
We previously posted about this issue here, based on a March New York Times article.
- "the current trial design may not optimally meet the scientific needs of prescribers, the clinical needs of patients, the economic needs of payers, or the regulatory needs of policymakers. But they superbly meet the business needs of the sponsore - to create new knowledge in a way that will protect the market share of the largest drug company's most important product."
Maybe now that the NIH has strict conflict-of-interest rules, and top NIH officials are no longer allowed to get lucrative consulting contracts with pharmaceutical companies, (see post here), this idea will get more welcome reception there.