Health providers could save billions without compromising health care says drug study

Switching patients to more cost-effective drugs for cholesterol and blood pressure problems could save the UK's National Health Service a billion pounds over the next five years without compromising clinical care, according to a study in the January issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

A research team led by Juliet Usher-Smith from the University of Cambridge, and Professor Mike Kirby from The Hertfordshire Primary Care Research Network looked at the clinical and financial implications of switching 185 patients at a family doctors' practice to more cost-effective drugs.

The switch, at the practice in Hertfordshire, UK, was carried out at the request of the local Primary Care Trust, which funds family doctors in the area.

No adverse events were reported by either patient group and the researchers argue that if the 26,000 annual savings were replicated elsewhere in the UK, the cost savings would be significant.

"In this study the generic drug simvastastin replaced low dose atorvastastin for high cholesterol treatment and candesartan replaced losartan for treating high blood pressure" explains Juliet Usher-Smith.

"Four months after the switch the cholesterol lowering drug was performing in line with the previous drug and the new blood pressure drug had actually resulted in a small, but significant, reduction in blood pressure."

Patients were only switched to alternative drugs after careful screening by both the practice pharmacist and doctors to ensure that there were no clinical reasons why this shouldn't be done. All patients were informed of the plans before new prescriptions were issued, either by letter or at regular check-ups.

122 were being prescribed the cholesterol lowering drug atorvastatin at the time of the switch. 43 were excluded by the practice pharmacist or doctors. 70 (57 per cent) were switched to simvastatin and 69 (99 per cent) stayed on the ne

Contact: Annette Whibley
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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