New national statistics released today showed a 12.5 per cent increase in the cost to the NHS of prescription drugs. This is significantly higher than the average annual increase of around 8 per cent over recent years.
The increase was largely put down to the steep rise in the price of generic drugs, vindicating Government action to impose a maximum price on generics, health minister Lord Philip Hunt said today.
Commenting on the figures, published in a Department of Health Statistical Bulletin (Prescriptions dispensed in the community, Statistics for 1989 to 1999: England), which showed between 1998 and 1999 the total net ingredient cost of prescriptions items in the community rose by 12.5 per cent, Lord Hunt said:
"These figures show clearly why it was necessary to bring in the statutory maximum prices for a range of generics which took effect on August 3.
"Last year's steep increase in generic drug prices is estimated to have cost the NHS around £200m. That is why we introduced a maximum price scheme for generic drugs and in a full year the action we have taken to control prices will reverse the effect of these increases. It also shows that we are determined to get value for money for the NHS and for patients."
Examples of price increases:
- Following a campaign to cut the inappropriate use of antibiotics, the number of prescriptions for antibacterial drugs fell by 9 per cent. Despite this, the overall cost of these medicines went up by 9 per cent, as nearly 80 per cent of prescriptions for these drugs are dispensed generically.
- Although the number of prescription items dispensed for respiratory drugs remained the same, the net ingredient cost increased by £28m or 5 per cent.