An unprecedented wave of drug patent expirations in the next year will usher in generics that will dramatically reduce the prices of some of world’s best-selling medications, including cholesterol drug Lipitor and blood thinner Plavix. Other drugs used to treat conditions such as asthma, diabetes, HIV and depression will also be affected.

“My estimation is at least 15 percent of the population is currently using one of the drugs whose patents will expire in 2011 or 2012,” says Joel Owerbach, chief pharmacy officer for Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, which serves most of upstate New York.

Since generics are usually priced 20-80 percent lower than brand name drugs, doctors hope patients who aren’t taking necessary medications because they can’t afford them will find some relief.

Pennsylvania resident Douglas Torok, 59, currently has a co-pay of $180 every three months for his blood pressure and cholesterol medications. He has a generous prescription plan provided through his employer, but has worried he won’t be able to cover the drug costs once he retires. When generics for Lipitor and Plavix are released, his three-month costs will drop down to $16 for both drugs.

“It’s a big deal for me on my income,” he said.

[Huffington Post]