Are Lipitor and Zocor equally effective? I take Lipitor for high cholesterol, but is there any reason I can't switch to a generic version of Zocor?
Answers from Thomas Behrenbeck, M.D., Ph.D.
This is a common and important question. With the high cost of many prescription medications, more people are considering switching to cheaper generic versions of brand-name drugs. Lipitor and Zocor belong to a class of drugs called statins, which are used to lower blood cholesterol. Zocor (simvastatin) is available as a generic. Lipitor (atorvastatin) likely won't be available as a generic until late 2011.
However, in addition to cost, you should also consider the effectiveness of your cholesterol-lowering medication when trying to decide if you should switch medications.
Talk to your doctor about whether switching from Lipitor to a generic version of Zocor is appropriate in your specific situation to reduce prescription drug costs. Keep in mind that each of these medications is different, and you may have side effects, such as muscle pain, from one medication, but not the other.
Both Lipitor and Zocor are safe and effective in lowering cholesterol. However, you can take half the amount of Lipitor as Zocor, with the same results. For example, 10 milligrams (mg) of Lipitor has the same cholesterol-lowering effect as 20 mg of Zocor. It's possible that in people with high cholesterol, Zocor at a higher dose will be just as effective as Lipitor.
However, if you need to take more than 40 mg of Lipitor, Zocor will not be as effective. The maximum dose of Zocor that you can safely take is 80 mg, which is equivalent to a dose of about 40 mg of Lipitor.
Nov. 06, 2009
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- Pedersen TR, et al. High-dose atorvastatin vs usual-dose simvastatin for secondary prevention after myocardial infarction. JAMA. 2005;294:2437.
- Ohsfeldt RL, et al. Statin cost-effectiveness comparisons using real-world effectiveness data: Formulary implications. Value in Health. 2008;11:1061.
- When a statin fails. Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics. 2009;51:58.
- Countdown to expiry: Lipitor goes generic on 11/30/11. Wall Street Journal. http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/06/18/countdown-to-expiry-lipitor-goes-generic-on-113011/. Accessed Aug. 11, 2009.