Treating hypertension and heart failure with a generic drug instead of branded medicines from the same class could save the NHS more than £200m this year, a new report has claimed.
A review of 14 hypertension and heart studies published between 1998 and 2009 compared the clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of the market leader candesartan instead of generic losartan, which is now considerably cheaper.
Candesartan - which is still under patent and marketed under a number of brand names - currently dominates the market for angiotensin-II receptor blockers (ARB) used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.
The NHS spends more than £250m a year on these drugs.
Researchers at University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust carried out a systematic review, statistical meta-analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis of studies involving 16,179 patients.
Their findings, published online by the International Journal of Clinical Practice (IJCP), showed that using generic drugs would not result in any real reduction in clinical benefits.
“Our comparative research showed that candesartan reduced blood pressure slightly more than losartan, with diastolic readings averaging 2mmHg lower and systolic readings 3mmHg lower,” said lead author Dr Anthony Grosso.
“However, this difference is unlikely to be cost-effective, particularly when it is prescribed in combination with other drugs.
“When we took all the factors into account, based on the evidence we reviewed, it was clear that losartan was likely to be the most cost-effective ARB to treat high blood pressure or heart failure.”
The authors estimate that using generic losartan as the angiotensin-II receptor blocker of choice could save the NHS approximately £200m in 2011.