NHS Cambridgeshire is examining proposals to ban GPs from prescribing branded statins, except for patients who have had a heart attack or stroke, according to a report in Pulse.

All other patients should be switched onto simvastatin, according to plans contained within a Primary Care Trust (PCT) business case seen by the journal. It is also proposed that the use of branded statins in all diabetes patients should be reviewed, and that lower-strength branded statins should no longer be used.

Pulse quotes NHS Cambridgeshire's chief pharmacist, Sue Ashwell, as stating that the plan is one of many options which have been put up for discussion, the key benefit of which would be to free up money to spend on other aspects of care.

However, the journal also reports a number of GPs as expressing concern at the proposals, pointing out that as some patients get on better with some statins than others, their use cannot be restricted. Moreover, with Pfizer's Lipitor (atovastatin) coming off patent, cost becomes less of an issue, added one doctor.

Meantime, the British Medical Association (BMA) in Wales has condemned the restricted drugs list introduced by the Hywel Dda Health Board as "morally wrong."

The Board, which covers Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, has told GPs that they can no longer prescribe a range of common medicines including painkillers, cough/cold treatments, remedies for diarrhoea, hay fever and thrush, and that patients must now buy them over the counter (OTC), the Western Mail has reported.

Powys Local Health Board is considering a similar move, the report adds.

Doctors leaders say the restricted list will disproportionately affect people on lower incomes, and suggest that the Board is attempting to induce doctors to break their terms of service, which require them to prescribe the medicines which they consider necessary for the patient's treatment.

Wales abolished prescription charges in 2007, in a move which is estimated to cost the nation around £30 million a year, but government figures indicate that it has not led to an increase in the number of prescriptions dispensed. But the Welsh Conservatives say they have data to show that the number of prescriptions for paracetamol has gone up almost a quarter in the last five years.