SHAs are aiming to save £68 million a year by pushing GPs to match the highest rates of generic statin prescribing.
But GPs have warned that the targets are a 'blunt instrument' that could undermine best practice.
In a quarter of PCTs in England, at least 77 per cent of statins prescribed are low-cost generics, according to data from the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, the DoH and Dr Foster Intelligence.
Based on figures from October to December 2007, if all PCTs achieved this level of statin prescribing the NHS would save £67.7 million a year.
Three PCTs in Greater Manchester have rates of generic statin prescribing lower than 50 per cent.
A report by the SHA's director of performance, nursing and quality Jane Cummings says savings could be 'used to improve other aspects of care'.
However, GPs warned that variations could be explained by population differences.
Lancashire GP and NHS Alliance practice-based commissioning lead for the North West Dr Mark Spencer said that large Asian populations in the North West with high rates of diabetes meant patients were harder to treat.
He said that prescribing of higher-cost drugs could be 'adding years to people's lives'.
Comment below and tell us what you think