One of Northern Ireland's top heart experts has hit out at UK health chiefs' plea to doctors to prescribe cheaper drugs - and save the cash-strapped NHS millions of pounds.
Dr Mahendra Varma, a cardiologist at the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen, said " cheaper did not mean better".
He was responding to figures showing that the NHS in England would save £85m a year if GPs gave cheaper cholesterol-busting statins to their patients.
But Dr Varma, vice-chairman of the Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association, who told the Belfast Telegraph recently that cholesterol-busting statins should be put into drinking water, said: " Cost should not come into the equation.
"We need to get cholesterol levels down but cheaper statins may not always do that.
"The majority of our patients have got very high cholesterols. They would need much more potent statins.
"I believe everybody should be on a statin.
"The savings made on cheaper drugs is negligible."
Costings from the Department of Health in England reveal that a 28-day course of generic statins cost between £1.89 and £4.57, with the top end being £26.42.
Meanwhile, branded alternatives cost between £18.03 and £29.69 for a 28-day course.
The department said statin prescribing had increased by more than 150% in five years, and costing £600m in 2005 alone.
If every primary care trust prescribed two generic statins, pravastatin and simvastatin, in 69% of all cases, then more than £84.7m a year could be saved, it said. In June, doctors argued that the NHS could save more than £2bn over five years if doctors switched to cheaper statins.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said using simvastatin for the 1.6 million new prescriptions would save £950m over five years.
Switching the one million patients currently on branded atorvastatin to simvastatin "should have no effect on health" and would save the National Health Service £1.1bn over five years, they added.
Health Minister Andy Burnham, said: "Clinicians can help to treat more patients by prescribing one of the lower cost drugs where it is clinically appropriate. "The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has confirmed that generic versions of statins are as effective for most patients as their more expensive, branded counterparts."