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Money-saving drugs for high blood pressure, angina identified

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Money-saving drugs for high blood pressure, Angina chosen in latest, free Best Buy Drugs report

Effective lower-cost options could save consumers $1,000 to $1,700 a year

(Washington, D.C.) – Four of the eight drugs in a class called Calcium Channel Blockers – used to treat people with high blood pressure, angina and heart rhythm abnormalities – have been chosen as Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, with potential annual savings of $1,000 to $1,700 a year over higher-priced medications.
The drugs, known as CCBs, were the eighth most prescribed class of medicines in the United States in 2004. They are effective medicines with over 20 years of widespread safe use. They help lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, millions of Americans may not be taking these medications due to the high cost of some of them.
“Calcium channel blockers are another important tool doctors have against high blood pressure and heart disease,” said Gail Shearer, project director of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs. “Unfortunately, not everyone who could benefit from this medicine is taking it. By identifying the most cost-effective drugs in this class, we hope people work with their doctors to choose the best medicine at prices they can afford.”
Since December, the Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs project has released free consumer-friendly reports on six widely-used categories of prescription drugs. The grant-funded program is designed to help patients, with their doctors, find effective and affordable medicines. To get the CCB report, go to www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org
All of the Best Buy CCBs are relatively low-cost or moderately-priced generic medicines (costing $22 to around $77 a month) with solid track records of effectiveness. The report shows consumers how they could save hundreds of dollars or even $1,000 a year if they are currently taking a brand-name CCB (by switching to the generic), or more if they have been prescribed one of the highest-priced CCBs and could switch to a low-cost generic one.
For example, a person prescribed brand-name Cardizem CD (diltiazem) 360 mg would save almost $700 a year if he or she switched to generic diltiazem SR 360mg. If the same person could switch to generic verapamil SR (180 mg or 20 mg), another CCB, they could save around $1,200 a year.
CCBs are prescribed primarily to treat high blood pressure, angina and heart rhythm abnormalities. The report notes that they are not typically used as first-step treatment in people with high blood pressure who have no other form of heart disease. But CCBs are increasingly used as initial treatment in people who have high blood pressure plus angina, or high blood pressure plus a high risk of stroke (or if they have already had a stroke or transient ischemic attack, sometimes called a mini-stroke).
High blood pressure and angina are under-treated conditions in the United States. Only about 30 percent of people who have high blood pressure, for example, get the medicines, care and blood pressure control they need. In part, that’s because some of the needed medicines are expensive.
The four Best Buy CCBs were chosen based on evidence for their effectiveness but also on dosing convenience and cost in treating the following conditions. They are:

  • For high blood pressure – Diltiazem SR and Diltiazem CR, Felodipine SR, Nifedipine SR, Verapamil SR

  • For angina – Nifedipine SR
  • For heart rhythm abnormalities – Diltiazem SR and Diltiazem CR, Verapamil SR

All the Best Buy CCBs are long-acting medicines, also called sustained release (SR) or continuous release (CR). Such medicines need to be taken just once a day, improving the likelihood patients will take their medicine as prescribed. Evidence suggests such formulations may yield better results in the control of high blood pressure and angina pain and in lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The CCBs join six other drug categories examined to date: cholesterol-lowering statins; heartburn and acid reflux drugs; anti-inflammatory pain relievers; antidepressants; beta-blockers to treat high blood pressure and heart disease, and ACE inhibitors to treat high blood pressure and heart disease.
Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs is both an educational and outreach effort funded by a major grant from the Engelberg Foundation and a supporting grant from the National Institutes of Health. Initiatives have been launched in Atlanta and Sacramento in the last few months to put Best Buy Drug print reports into consumers’ hands and to test methods for reaching consumers who need information on prescription drug effectiveness and pricing.
The project combines evidence-based research on the comparative effectiveness and safety of prescription drugs with comprehensive nationwide data on drug prices. The information on drug effectiveness is derived from the Drug Effectiveness Review Project (DERP), a 12-state initiative. Price information is based on average retail prices paid in cash by consumers at the pharmacy. Every drug report is peer-reviewed by medical experts in the particular drug category.
To view or download any of the drug reports, go to www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org.
For more information contact: Susan Herold: (202) 462-6262