At a glance: Zocor availability

Zocor – remind me, what’s that again? It’s one of the world’s biggest-selling drugs and among the top three anti-cholesterol brands among GPs, according to PRWeek’s Pharma Focus table (16 April). More technically, it’s the brand name for simvastatin.

Wasn’t Zocor in the papers last week?

Indeed. Zocor is soon to be available in the UK without prescription.

Thereby carrying the fight against heart disease to the public?

That’s the way the Department of Health sees it. But the Consumers’ Association says Britain, as the first country to make this move, is being used as a guinea pig in a government cost-cutting exercise.

Strong stuff. Are they?

No, of course not. At least not according to Ozone, the PR agency promoting Zocor (PRWeek, 20 February). It says the product’s availability is a positive step as consumers take responsibility for their own health and adds that the British Heart Foundation is in favour of making it OTC.

So what’s the detractors’ problem?

They are worried that pharmacists will not be fully aware of a patient’s medical condition and that GPs will not be able to monitor their progress with the drug.

But aren’t we always told how well-qualified high-street chemists are?

We certainly are, and with good reason. But it does point up the need for sharing clinical information between doctors and pharmacists, says the Royal College of General Practitioners. And the Stroke Association says anyone considering taking simvastatin should consult their GP first. The Government insists pharmacists should still refer people at high risk of heart attack to a GP.

So what happens now?

Johnson & Johnson MSD, which wants to sell Zocor Heart Pro in the UK, has not received a licence from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, but the fact that Health Secretary John Reid has announced it will be available is a bit of a giveaway. Expect the first doses in mid-summer.

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