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Independents' Day

Statin switching 'putting lives at risk'

PCTs scrimping on their drug bills may be putting lives at risk, a leading cardiologist has warned.

With statins the biggest single area of drug spending in the NHS, some PCTs have been encouraging GPs to switch patients to cheaper generic statins, such as simvastatin.

But Dr Rob Butler, consultant cardiologist at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, said in the latest edition of the British Journal of Cardiology that the approach could be dangerous for some patients.

‘Standardising therapy to a cost-effective drug is good as long as the high-risk patients are not inadvertently caught in the switching process,' he said.

He added that patients who had had a heart attack, angioplasty or bypass surgery might require the additional efficacy of atorvastatin or rosuvastatin to prevent further cardiovascular events.

Dr David Gray, reader in medicine and consultant cardiologist at Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, said that having a powerful statin was a ‘very easy way' of reducing a patient's risk of cardiovascular events.

The trouble with GPs and PCTs is they are just trying to do the minimum to meet the target and they have forgotten patient care,' he said.

But Professor David Fitz-maurice, professor of primary care research at the University of Birmingham, said there was a limit to the benefits of statins. ‘Standard therapy may be having its maximal anti-inflammatory effect and all you are doing is increasing the side-effects without adding benefit,' he said.


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