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GPs face blanket ban on prescribing branded statins to save costs

Exclusive NHS managers are proposing a ban on GPs from prescribing branded statins and a mass switch of patients onto cheaper generic versions, in a controversial drive to cut costs.

NHS Cambridgeshire is considering whether to switch all patients onto simvastatin and only allow branded statin use in patients who have had a heart attack or stroke, in a move that local GPs warn will harm patient care.

A PCT business case containing savings proposals this financial year – obtained by Pulse - advises that the use of branded statins for all diabetes patients should be reviewed, and that all use of lower-strength branded statins should be stopped.

The proposal goes on to say that only patients with acute coronary syndromes should be allowed to have branded statins.

Sue Ashwell, chief pharmacist, NHS Cambridgeshire, said the proposal was ‘one of many options, reflecting the national suggestions for prescribing QIPP and topics suggested by local doctors'.

Ms Ashwell added: ‘We are considering all of these with input from clinicians in all our local hospitals and practices. The key benefit of considering all the options that we have put up for discussion is to free up money to spend on other aspects of care for patients in Cambridgeshire.'

If this were to be one of the agreed options we will work with our clinical colleagues to ensure that risks and benefits for individuals and for our population were balanced in line with our decision-making principles.'

But some GPs expressed alarm at the proposals. Dr Rita Aggarwal, a GP in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, said: ‘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.'

‘Also atorvastatin is coming off patent so the cost issue surrounding it won't be as bad.'

Dr John Crawford, a GP in Ely, Cambrigeshire, said: ‘It's something we have been dealing with for quite some time. We have had it quite difficult. It makes some people quite hard to get on target. We were kind of bullied by the PCT. We were told we were outliers.'

‘It is working out ok, most people are fine on simvastatin, there are occasions when I will prescribe others but getting something that works for people is the main thing.'

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