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Generic Heart Drugs Just as Good as Brand Names

Dec 3, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Generic heart medications work just as well as their more expensive, brand name counterparts, a new study has found.  Yet despite the absence of  a difference in effectiveness, editorials in medical journals and newspapers regularly present generics as an inferior choice, the study found.

According to Bloomberg.com., Americans spend more on heart drugs like Lipitor and Plavix than they do on other prescription medications.  Generics cost 30 to 80 percent less than their brand-name counterparts and account for 65 percent of U.S. prescriptions, Bloomberg said.  Yet despite the obvious cost savings, many doctors are reluctant to prescribe generic versions of popular heart medications, and patients often prefer brand names as well.

A study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) should ease some of that reluctance.  For the study, researchers at Harvard Medical School looked at 47 studies of nine types of drugs.  According to The Washington Post, all of the studies involving beta blockers, antiplatelet agents, statins, ACE inhibitors and alpha-blockers showed clinical equivalence between brand names and generics, while 91 percent of randomized controlled trials showed clinical equivalence for diuretics, and 71 percent showed the same for calcium-channel blockers.

“Evidence does not support the notion that brand-name drugs used in cardiovascular disease are superior to generic drugs,” the authors of the study wrote.

According to Bloomberg.com, the authors suggested reluctance to use generics was partly the result of unwarranted negative publicity about generics.   To reach that conclusion, the researchers looked at 43 editorials from medical journals and newspapers.  They  found more than half had a negative view of generic drugs.  

The authors said that in many instances, the writers of the pieces may have used anecdotal evidence rather than actual studies in reaching their conclusions.  In many cases, they  may have had financial ties to the brand-name drug makers

According to the Washington Post, almost half of the trials and nearly all of the editorials the study authors looked at failed to identify funding sources.


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