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GPs in the UK to be banned from prescribing branded statins Posted 19/08/2011

General Practitioners (GPs) in Cambridgeshire, UK, have been told by the national health service (NHS) that they are considering proposals to ban prescribing of branded statins in favour of cheaper generic alternatives according to a report in Pulse.

The only exceptions would be for patients who have had a heart attack or stroke. All other patients should be switched onto simvastatin, according to plans contained within a Primary Care Trust (PCT) business case. The report also suggests a review of branded statin use for all diabetes patients and for use of lower-strength branded statins to be stopped.

NHS Cambridgeshire’s Chief Pharmacist, Ms Sue Ashwell, stated that the key benefit of the plans would be to ‘free up money to spend on other aspects of care.’

While this is great news for generics manufacturers, some doctors have responded with alarm. Dr Rita Aggarwal, a GP in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, UK; stated that ‘we can’t restrict statins because some people get on better with others. We do try and recommend simvastatin and pravastatin but it’s difficult in practice.’ Adding that with Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) coming off patent cost will become less of an issue.

This may not be the case for Lipitor (atorvastatin), as history has shown that when there are only one or two generics in the market, originator companies will cut their prices to remain competitive. However, when there are more generics entering the market, the price plummets and the originator companies withdraw to a high price–low market share position [1].

When Lipitor (atorvastatin) comes off-patent in 2011 there are likely to be many generics coming onto the market, considering the fact that Lipitor has held the title of the world’s best-selling prescription medicine for many years now. In 2010, Lipitor had worldwide sales of US$13 billion [2], accounting for 15.8% of Pfizer’s total revenue [3]. It is therefore likely that many companies will be fighting for a piece of this lucrative pie, causing Pfizer to retreat to a high price–low market share position, thus keeping the price of the branded medicine high and making switching to a lower priced generic the only way to reduce prices.

References

1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. How cheap will biosimilars need to be? [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2011 August 19]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/Research/How-cheap-will-biosimilars-need-to-be

2. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. 2011’s biggest patent expiries [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2011 August 19]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Policies-Legislation/2012-s-biggest-patent-expiries

Source: Pulse

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