Some of the patents for many of America's best-selling drugs will be expiring, meaning that cheaper generic options may soon be available. Generic Lipitor and generic Plavix might translate to millions of dollars of savings for consumers.
Many of these drugs' patents will be expiring toward the end of 2012.
About 15% of Americans take one or more of the drugs whose patents are going to expire. Besides Lipitor and Plavix, about 18 other drugs' patents will be expiring, reports the AP.
And, over the next decade, about 120 brand-name drugs will have their patents expire, which will likely flood the market with generic alternatives.
Typically, generic drugs generally cost about 20-80% less than their brand-name counterparts, a steep price difference that can mean lower costs and the ability to afford medication for those who are more hard-strapped for cash or who don't have insurance.
Doctors are hoping that the cheaper medications will also help with the overall health of the population, as patients who might skip medication because of the high costs might be encouraged to take them instead of risking their health, the AP reports.
Patients should expect, however, for the brand-name prices to increase before the generics appear on the market. Typically, drug companies tend to raise the prices on the medicine in the years before the patent expires in order to cash in, reports Time. Some drug companies even hammer out deals with generic drug manufacturers in order to get a cut of generic drug sales.
So while generic Lipitor and generic Plavix is not available yet, consumers should be aware of the possible changes - and savings coming their way.