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Beta Blockers

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety is taking (a) to inform users of beta blockers of the proposed gradual withdrawal of this drug without causing distress or anxiety and (b) to ensure that general practitioners withdraw beta blockers gradually from patients with high blood pressure. (84941)

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recently produced clinical guidelines on the management of high blood pressure in adults; this includes new guidance relating to the use of beta-adrenoceptor blockers. Beta blockers are also used for a number of other clinical conditions. Beta blockers are not being withdrawn and remain a licensed medicine for use in Northern Ireland.

I recently announced the establishment of a formal link between NICE and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, and will shortly confirm the arrangements for determination of the applicability of NICE guidelines to the HPSS in Northern Ireland. The Department will give specific consideration to the communication of information contained in this particular guidance

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people prescribed beta blockers in Northern Ireland in the last 12 months have ailments other than high blood pressure. (84974)

Information is only available on the total number of beta-adrenoceptor blocking drug items dispensed in primary care in the past 12 months. Information is not available on the actual number of individuals that this relates to or the ailment for which the drug has been dispensed.

Table 1: Number of beta-adrenoceptor blocking drugs dispensed

2005

907,553

Source: Prescription cost analysis, Central Services Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many patients prescribed beta blockers for high blood pressure in Northern Ireland are over the age of 55; and if he will make a statement. (84975)

The information is not available for the clinical condition of high blood pressure or for the age group requested but only on the total number of beta-adrenoceptor blocking drug items dispensed in primary care in the past 12 months.

Number of blocking beta-adrenoceptor drugs dispensed

2005

907,553

Source:

Prescription Cost Analysis, Central Services Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people in Northern Ireland were prescribed beta blockers for high blood pressure in the last 12 months, broken down by board area. (84976)

Information is only available on the total number of beta-adrenoceptor drug items dispensed in primary care in the past 12 months. This information is not readily available by health board area, nor is information available on the actual number of individuals that this relates to.

Number of beta-adrenoceptor blocking drugs dispensed

2005

907,553

Source:

Prescription Cost Analysis, Central Services Agency.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the total cost has been of beta blockers in the Northern Ireland health budget in each of the last three years. (84977)

The information is shown in the following table:

Total ingredient cost for beta-adrenoceptor blocking drugs

(£)

2003

6,451,614

2004

6,879,635

2005

6,806,766

Notes:

1. Total ingredient cost refers to gross cost before discount, except for drugs listed in the Northern Ireland drug tariff that have already had discount applied.

2. The costs provided only cover drugs dispensed in primary care. Costs of drugs prescribed and dispensed in hospital cannot be captured central due to the use of different hospital IT systems.

Source:

Prescription Cost Analysis, Central Services Agency.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the potential effects on costs arising from the transfer of patients from using beta blockers to other drugs available for high blood pressure; and how long the transfer will take to implement. (84978)

Information is not available for the clinical condition of blood pressure. It is anticipated that pharmacological costs may rise due to the transfer of patients from beta-adrenoceptor blocking drugs to ACE inhibitors. Cost impact assessments made by NICE indicate however that full implementation of the NICE guideline achieved over a number of years might produce some savings as a result of reduced numbers of strokes and ischaemic heart disease. No estimate has been made of possible corresponding savings that might occur in Northern Ireland.

The timescale for implementation of this change is dependent upon the needs of individual patients. It is particularly important that patients do not stop using their medication without seeking professional advice.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people have experienced (a) side effects and (b) life-threatening side effects as a direct result of being prescribed beta blockers for high blood pressure in each of the last five years, broken down by board area. (84979)

As beta-adrenoceptor drugs can be prescribed for a number of conditions it is not possible to tell from existing information if a person was prescribed beta blockers for high blood pressure. As with other medicines, there are a number of known side effects with beta blockers. All serious adverse drug reactions suspected to be related to any medicine, or combination of medicines, should be reported directly to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The Department has no data on admission to hospital as a direct result of side effects/life threatening side effects as a result of the providing of beta blockers for high blood pressure.