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Prescribing costs jump in England

New report finds that asthma and diabetes drugs the most costly to the NHS

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New research into the primary care prescribing trends in England and Wales NHS has shown and increase in both prescriptions and costs in 2014.  

The report, General Practice Prescribing Trends in England & Wales, 2014 Annual Review, found that the asthma treatment Ventolin (albuterol) by A&H was last year the most prescribed pharmaceutical brand by healthcare professionals working in general practice in England and Wales.

The drug had 8.8 million scripts written, according to the new report by media and marketing services company Cogora.

Cogora also found that the third most prescribed brand, GlaxoSmithKline's respiratory drug Seretide (with 3.6 million scripts written), costs the NHS the largest amount of money, with a net ingredient cost (NIC) of £178m. 

The total cost of medicines used in primary care in the NHS in England and Wales rose from £8.91bn in 2013 to 9.16bn in 2014.

After Seretide, another respiratory drug from AstraZeneca - Symbicort - saw the second highest spend with £89m, while Novo Nordisk's insulin NovoRapid came in third with the NHS spending £75m on the drug. Sanofi's insulin Lantus was also a close fourth, with £72.7m spent on the drug last year.

Overall, the disease areas associated with the highest cost to the NHS were discovered to be: diabetes drugs, respiratory corticosteroids, analgesics, antiepileptics and oral nutrition products. 

NIC costs for diabetes was £901.6m while respiratory drugs saw a spend of £754.3m. 

In line with prescribing guidelines, the vast majority (82%) of prescriptions issued in general practices in England and Wales in 2014 named an 'active ingredient', rather than a specific pharmaceutical brand. 

The proportion of prescriptions naming an active ingredient varied across regions, with the highest observed in London and the North of England (83%) and the lowest observed in Wales and the South of England (80%). 

Trends in therapy areas for 2014 include a 10% increase in the total number of prescriptions issued for strong opioids, which are associated with an increased risk of addiction. 

And while the level of generic prescribing was lower for certain antiepileptics (51%) compared with other therapy areas (82%), charities are currently advocating greater branded prescribing of antiepileptics due to the uncertainty associated with ensuring clinical equivalence for certain types of antiepileptics if these are supplied by different manufacturers. 

There was also a 12% increase in the total NIC associated with prescriptions for nutritional supplements and paediatric milk intolerance in 2014 compared to 2013, which may reflect the publication of new UK guidance highlighting the importance of early recognition when managing cow's milk allergy.  

Article by
Ben Adams

5th May 2015

From: Healthcare

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