Heart drug switch could save patients €200 a year
PRIVATE patients who take prescribed drugs for high blood pressure and heart failure could save between €150-€200 a year if they switched to cheaper versions endorsed by the HSE.
Prof Michael Barry, who is spearheading the HSE's medicine management programme, said he had identified the "preferred drugs" which GPs should prescribe for patients with these conditions.
The preferred ACE inhibitor to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure is Ramipril. And the preferred Angiotensin II Receptor Blocker (ARB), which is used for controlling high blood pressure and treating heart failure, is Candesartan, he said.
"Our message to patients is that preferred drugs are effective, cost less for the individual and for the health system, while providing maximum safety," he added.
Switching to these could leave private patients with major savings and prescribing them for medical card holders would also cut the drugs bill for the HSE.
The HSE analysed all the drugs on the market to treat these conditions and came up with a list of medicines which are all equally effective but differ in price.
If a doctor prescribes more expensive versions, a pharmacist can substitute it safely for the cheaper drug. Patients can also ask that the change be made.
The HSE earlier this year drew up a similar list for statins which reduce cholesterol and proton pump inhibitors for stomach problems.
"Currently, the HSE spends in excess of €40m a year on ACE inhibitors and ARBs under the Primary Care Scheme, with ARBs accounting for €25m of this expenditure.
"By prescribing the preferred ACE inhibitor and the preferred ARB, doctors will save their patients money and deliver significant savings for the taxpayer."
The Medicines Management Programme is aiming to secure €20m in savings in 2013.
"Since the announcement of the first 'preferred drugs' earlier this year, for proton pump inhibitors (Lansoprazole) and statin medication (Simvastatin) there has been a shift in the prescribing patterns to reflect the uptake in preferred drug prescribing.
The HSE drugs budget exceeded €1.7bn in 2012 under the Community Drugs Schemes. This expenditure represents a greater than five-fold increase over the past decade.