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Is There a Safe Generic Substitute for Lipitor?


Updated October 27, 2008

Question: Is There a Safe Generic Substitute for Lipitor?

A question from a reader: Dr. Mike, my health plan has refused to refill my prescription for Lipitor 20mg and wants me to go on a generic form of medication to lower my cholesterol. I have a problem with my heart and there is a history of heart disease in my family.

My doctor has filed a request to fill the Lipitor but my health plan has refused the request. Is the generic medication for my high cholesterol any good?


Thanks for writing. I'm sorry to hear that you are having problems with your health plan. Although they refused your doctor's request, you do have the right to appeal that decision. The benefits book from your health plan should give you directions about how to appeal a medical decision.

However, since so many people use generic medications, I doubt that your health plan will reverse its decision. If you start taking a generic medication and it does not work or if you are allergic to any of the inactive ingredients in the new medication, your doctor can refile a complaint with your health plan.

You also have the option of paying out-of-pocket for your Lipitor (atorvastatin), but it is quite expensive.

Lipitor, which does not have a generic version, belongs to a class of medications known as statins. Some of the statins do have generic versions, including:

  • Mevacor: generic = lovastatin
  • Pravachol: generic = pravastatin
  • Zocor: generic = simvastatin

Personally, I had the same experience. I have diabetes and high cholesterol and it is very important for me to keep my LDL cholesterol at or below 70. I was on Lipitor and my health plan refused to pay for it. My doctor prescribed a similar drug called simvastatin, which is the generic form of Zocor. It has worked fine and I have not had any side effects.

I would recommend that you read my article: Are Generic Drugs as Safe and Effective as Brand-Name Drugs? The article answers questions about generic medications versus brand name medications and provides information about how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works to assure that generic medications are safe.

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