British drugmaker AstraZeneca says it has been given the thumbs up for its new combination blood pressure lowering medicine Dutoprol, and will start shipping immediately - directly to patients.

Dutoprol is a once-daily medicine combining the active ingredient in AstraZeneca’s beta blocker Toprol (metoprolol) with a low dose diuretic hydrochlorothiazide.

Instead of a traditional payer contracting strategy, AstraZeneca says it has taken a novel approach to launch Dutoprol at a price that competes with the generically-available forms of Toprol XL and hydrochlorothiazide (at a wholesale acquisition price of $15.90) – whether or not a patient has insurance coverage.

Additionally, the firm has created a direct to patient mail order programme that it says could offer additional savings on the retail pharmacy price. These patients can fill their prescriptions for $18.33 per month, with free shipping, when they order a 90-day supply. However, for patients who wish to use their local pharmacies, AstraZeneca has also created a retail pharmacy programme.  

Toprol-XL was among the top-10 most-prescribed medicines in the USA for the five years prior to the introduction of generics. Loss of these sales have hit the firm hard, leading to its announcement at the end of last year that it would cull its US salesforce by one quarter.