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Drug switches intensify

PCTs are starting to target antiplatelets and proton pump inhibitors as intensively as statins for drug switching, figures obtained by Pulse show.

Moving patients from clopidogrel to aspirin is now the most lucrative drug switch among trusts employing special software to clamp down on GPs' prescribing bills.

Trusts are also saving hundreds of thousands of pounds by pressing GPs to shift their patients from esomeprazole to lansoprazole.

The figures, from a selection of the 60 old-PCT areas using ScriptSwitch software, emerged as ministers aimed to ramp up pressure on GP drugs bills with up to 30 'value' indicators.

The Department of Health has developed indicators targeting generic prescribing of proton pump inhibitors, ACE inhibitors and antiplatelets. Another would identify 'potential generic savings' under the proposals, which are now being discussed by strategic health authorities.

But the data on drug switches reveals some trusts are ahead of the game, with 25 per cent of savings now made in gastrointestinal drugs such as PPIs.

Switching clopidogrel 75mg tablets to aspirin 75mg dispersible tablets was responsible for 10 per cent of savings alone.GPs said the move to promote more cost-effective prescribing was sensible, but pressure placed on GPs less so.

Dr Jim Kennedy, prescribing spokesman for the RCGP, said: 'There are problems with targets – there are too many of them and they can be too crude.'GPs will be happy with moving to more generic drugs but constant targets are not necessarily the best way of achieving best clinical practice.'

Dr George Rae, secretary of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC and a GP in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, added: 'It's being done in most areas, but you've got to let the profession get on with the job.'

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