Pharmacists Debate OTC Statin Switch

JULY 01, 2005

Pharmacists appear to be on 2 sides of the fence regarding statins going to OTC status in the United States. An ongoing survey, conducted by Kline & Co, indicated that many pharmacists have genuine concerns about the viability of offering drugs such as lovastatin (Mevacor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), and pravastatin (Pravachol) over the counter.

"We actually expected to find a more optimistic outlook among pharmacists for OTC statins, but in our first round of interviews we heard many of the same concerns voiced by doctors and the FDA," reported Laura Mahecha, industry manager for the Healthcare practice of Kline's research division.

These concerns included side effects, potential interactions with other medications, and the ability of patients to monitor cholesterol levels and use the medication correctly without supervision. Some respondents, however, were confident about the safety of the existing statins and believed that, with enough guidance from pharmacists, patients could successfully treat their high cholesterol levels without a prescription and at a reduced cost.

Pharmacists' opinions also were divided on whether statins would actually make the switch. Many of the respondents said that the change will be more likely over the next decade, regardless of whether they believed that the switch was positive or negative. The pharmacists agreed that, if approved, OTC statins could lead to major changes in the way pharmacists operate and the role that pharmacists play.