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Generic heart drugs 'as good as their branded equivalent'

By Nigel Praities

Branded cardiovascular drugs are no superior to their generic equivalents, a new study concludes.

The meta-analysis found branded and non-proprietary equivalents were usually similar in their clinical effect, and provides support for controversial Government plans to allow pharmacists to substitute one for the other.

The US research looked at 47 studies – of which 38 were randomised controlled trials – and found clinical equivalence between generics and branded medicines in all the trials on beta-blockers, statins, warfarin, antiarrythmics and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.

The study, published in the latest issue of JAMA, found generics were equivalent in 71% of the trials looking at calcium-channel blockers and 91% of diuretic trials.

Pulse reported last week that from 2010 GPs will have to tick a box to prevent pharmacists from dispensing a generic drug even when they have specified a brand.

But study leader Dr Aaron Kesselheim, internal medicine physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, US, said schemes to replace branded with generic versions were vital to cut costs: ‘These findings support the use of formulary designs aimed at stimulating appropriate generic drug use.'

Dr Kathryn Griffiths, a GP in York and chair of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society said she agreed with the findings but generic substitution had to be managed carefully.

‘It is not true for long-acting preparations and substituting a generic can add to confusion for patients if they get a pink tablet one week and a blue one the next,' she said.

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