Generic substitution of antihypertensive drugs: does it affect adherence?

BACKGROUND: Generic substitution is an important opportunity to reduce the costs of pharmaceutical care. However, pharmacists and physicians often find that patients and brand-name manufacturers have doubt about the equivalence of the substituted dug. This may be reflected by decreased adherence to therapy. OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between generic substitution and nonadherence to antihypertensive drugs. METHODS: We conducted a matched cohort study between January 1, 1999, and December31, 2002. Data were obtained from PHARMO, a record linkage system containing drug-dispensing records from community pharmacies and linked hospital discharge records of approximately 950,000 people in The Netherlands. Residents of 30 medium-sized cities who initiated antihypertensive drug therapy were potential subjects. Refill adherence with antihypertensive drugs after substitution was determined; those with refill adherence below 80% were considered nonadherent. RESULTS: Four hundred sixty-three patients with a substitution in therapy and 565 controls, matched on age, gender, therapy start date, duration of use, and generic product code, were identified. Of the patients who switched from brand-name to generic formulations (“substituted”), 13.6% werenonadherent, and of the non-substituted patients (those who did not switch to generic), 18.7% were nonadherent (OR 0.68; 95% CI 0.48 to 0.96). The association was absent in males. None of the patients discontinued the medication. No differences in hospitalizations for cardiovascular disease in the 6 months after the substitution were observed. CONCLUSIONS: Generic substitution of antihypertensive drugs does not lead to lower adherence or more discontinuation and cardiovascular disease-related hospitalizations compared with brand-name therapy. When a less-expensive antihypertensive generic equivalent becomes available, generic substitution should be considered to achieve economic benefits.

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