CVD overhaul 'could save £21 million'

Improved prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) could save the NHS £21 million a year, a report by NICE suggests.

Simvastatin: CVD drugs are widely prescribed but relatively cheap (Photograph: SPL)
Simvastatin: CVD drugs are widely prescribed but relatively cheap (Photograph: SPL)

The estimate comes as NHS data reveal that CVD drugs account for a third of prescriptions in primary care, but just a fifth of drug spending.

NICE calculates that, even in an average-sized PCT with low deprivation, improved treatment could prevent 25 CVD events and save £115,000 a year. This is equivalent to more than £21 million across the UK.

Click here for the NICE document

In PCTs with high levels of deprivation, more than 30 events a year could be prevented and £142,000 saved, NICE says.

The figures are based on the cost savings that could be achieved by addressing modifiable risk factors for CVD in people aged 40 and over.

Professor Mike Kirby, a GP in Hertfordshire with an interest in cardiovascular disease, said there were 'really good' cost-effectiveness arguments for improving CVD treatment and 'keeping people away from cardiologists'.

'In terms of primary prevention, it is about keeping people healthy for longer,' he said.

'With secondary prevention, most of the cost is related to dealing with complications. That is a real cost to the NHS.'

NICE's estimates on the cost-effectiveness of CVD prevention come as NHS Information Centre data reveal that drugs for CVD account for 31 per cent of all prescriptions dispensed in the community.

However, drugs for CVD make up just 20 per cent of total spending on medicines in primary care.

Four of the five most commonly prescribed drugs are used to treat cardiovascular disease: simvastatin, aspirin, ramipril and bendroflumethiazide.

These four drugs account for almost 13 per cent of all prescription items, but represent just 2 per cent of drug costs, the NHS Information Centre data show.

Professor Kirby also stressed the importance of identifying those at risk, ensuring patients were titrated up to appropriate dosages and advising patients about lifestyle change.

Most prescribed list
The top 10 drugs prescribed in the community (2009)
  • Simvastatin
  • Aspirin
  • Levothyroxine sodium
  • Ramipril
  • Bendroflumethiazide
  • Paracetamol
  • Salbutamol
  • Omeprazole
  • Amlodipine
  • Lansoprazole
Source: NHS Information Centre

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