Over the next 14 months, patents for seven of the world’s top-selling brand-name drugs are set to expire – including heavy hitters like Lipitor and Plavix. Revenues the pharma companies earn from these drugs will plunge overnight as generic competitors enter the market, and the fallout for patients may be a mixed blessing.

Selling these drugs over the counter may help some brand-name companies deal with the loss and maintain some revenue from their products. Pfizer, for example, may request that the FDA allow them to market the cholesterol-lowering statin, Lipitor, over the counter once its patent expires in November.

Patients would also benefit. Over-the-counter medications tend to be significantly cheaper than prescription drugs and generics. Drugs that have successfully made the transition over the counter include Claritin and Zyrtec for allergies or Prilosec for heartburn.

While the side effects of statins are minimal, the availability of these drugs over the counter has posed some concerns for physicians. High-risk patients may end up being undertreated without being under a physician’s care and low-risk patients may unnecessarily take the medication.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know…

  • Do you feel that offering some of these drugs over the counter is a good way to save your patients and the healthcare system money?
  • What are the negative consequences that could result from this decision?