The use of generic statins generally led to better health outcomes for patients than those using brand-name drugs, a study showed – because the lower cost of the generic version usually meant better adherence.
In the United States, statistics show that only about half the patients prescribed statins continue to take them after a year. The study, led by Joshua Gagne, assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine
, showed the breakdown of adherence.
“We knew that higher medication costs led to lower adherence, and that statins, the most frequently prescribed drugs in the United States, only confer benefits for as long as patients take them,” said Gagne.
The researchers used electronic data from claims to pharmacy chain CVS Health and Medicare medical claims of more than 90,000 patients aged 65 years or older between 2006 and 2008.
Using the “proportion of days covered” metric, which measures the number of days over an interval that patients have medication available, the study found that 77% of days were covered for those who had used generic statins, in contrast with 71% for patients using brand names.
“We had hypothesized, and the research now confirms, that generic initiators would have better adherence because of those drugs’ lower cost, and that, if patients are more adherent, they would have better clinical outcomes,” said Gagne.
He noted that although the US Food and Drug Administration mandates that generic drugs contain the same active ingredient found in brand-name counterparts, many consumers still believe generic medications are inferior.
Gagne says the results of the study are applicable to healthcare systems in which generic statins are less expensive than brand-name ones. “If patients pay the same co-payment for both generic and brand-name drugs, cost is no longer a factor to deter adherence,” he said, noting that further investigation was needed to determine whether these results would apply to other drug classes.
 Gagne JJ, Choudhry NK, Kesselheim AS, et al. Comparative Effectiveness of Generic and Brand-Name Statins on Patient Outcomes. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2014;161(6):400. doi: 10.7326/M13-2942(accessed 23 September 2014)