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Cheaper generic drugs save NHS £400m

In 2008, almost £400m was saved by the DH, the NHS and PCTs in England, through more cost-effective prescribing

In 2008, almost £400m was saved by the Department of Health (DH), the National Health Service (NHS) and primary care trusts (PCTs) in England, through more cost-effective prescribing, according to calculations made by the Department of Medicines Management at Keele University.

In 2007, the National Audit Office (NAO) report, Prescribing Costs in Primary Care, stated that PCTs could save more than £200m a year without compromising patient care if GPs prescribed cheaper, generic medicines. Keele University has now confirmed the NAO's finding.

PCTs in England achieved a total saving of £394m in 2008 through more consistent use of lower-cost, generic medicines for some common conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and gastric problems. The largest savings were made on statins, with £278m saved. The strategic health authority which made the largest saving over the year was the North West, which saved over £70m. Newham achieved the largest saving among PCTs, at £7.8m.

The savings were obtained through changing prescribing patterns, rather than changing prices for medicines.

Michael Whitehouse, assistant auditor general at the NAO, said: "These findings demonstrate the extent to which GPs choosing to prescribe cheaper, but just as clinically effective, generic medicines can lead to real savings for the NHS. This is all the more important as the NHS's spending on medicines continues to rise year on year, as the UK's population ages and more and better treatments become available. The almost £400m saved in just one year is money available to improve the quality of patient care."

The NAO works independent of government and certifies the accounts of all government departments. It reports to parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which the departments have used their resources.

13th May 2009

From: Healthcare

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