Clinical Equivalence of Generic and Brand-Name Drugs Used in Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

JAMA. 2008 Dec 3;300(21):2514-26. doi: 10.1001/jama.2008.758.

Abstract

Context: Use of generic drugs, which are bioequivalent to brand-name drugs, can help contain prescription drug spending. However, there is concern among patients and physicians that brand-name drugs may be clinically superior to generic drugs.

Objectives: To summarize clinical evidence comparing generic and brand-name drugs used in cardiovascular disease and to assess the perspectives of editorialists on this issue.

Data sources: Systematic searches of peer-reviewed publications in MEDLINE, EMBASE, and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts from January 1984 to August 2008.

Study selection: Studies compared generic and brand-name cardiovascular drugs using clinical efficacy and safety end points. We separately identified editorials addressing generic substitution.

Data extraction: We extracted variables related to the study design, setting, participants, clinical end points, and funding. Methodological quality of the trials was assessed by Jadad and Newcastle-Ottawa scores, and a meta-analysis was performed to determine an aggregate effect size. For editorials, we categorized authors' positions on generic substitution as negative, positive, or neutral.

Results: We identified 47 articles covering 9 subclasses of cardiovascular medications, of which 38 (81%) were randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Clinical equivalence was noted in 7 of 7 RCTs (100%) of beta-blockers, 10 of 11 RCTs (91%) of diuretics, 5 of 7 RCTs (71%) of calcium channel blockers, 3 of 3 RCTs (100%) of antiplatelet agents, 2 of 2 RCTs (100%) of statins, 1 of 1 RCT (100%) of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and 1 of 1 RCT (100%) of alpha-blockers. Among narrow therapeutic index drugs, clinical equivalence was reported in 1 of 1 RCT (100%) of class 1 antiarrhythmic agents and 5 of 5 RCTs (100%) of warfarin. Aggregate effect size (n = 837) was -0.03 (95% confidence interval, -0.15 to 0.08), indicating no evidence of superiority of brand-name to generic drugs. Among 43 editorials, 23 (53%) expressed a negative view of generic drug substitution.

Conclusions: Whereas evidence does not support the notion that brand-name drugs used in cardiovascular disease are superior to generic drugs, a substantial number of editorials counsel against the interchangeability of generic drugs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Drugs, Generic / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Therapeutic Equivalency

Substances

  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Drugs, Generic