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Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
NHS drugs bill soars
Generic drugs have soared in price
The cost to the NHS of prescription drugs jumped by 12.5% last year to 5.29bn, according to official statistics.

The rise is significantly higher than the average annual increase of about 8% over recent years.

However, the number of prescriptions only rose by 3.2% to 530 million.

Much of the increase is due to a sharp rise in the price of generic drugs, according to data published by the Department of Health.

We are determined to get value for money for the NHS and for patients

Lord Hunt, Health Minister

Ministers recently acted to stop this trend by imposing a maximum price on a range of generic drugs.

Health Minister Lord Hunt said the figures illustrated why the new rule, which took effect on August 3, was introduced.

"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.

"We are determined to get value for money for the NHS and for patients."

Examples of price increases include:

  • a 9% rise in the cost of antibiotics - despite a fall in the number of prescriptions for these drugs
  • a 5% increase in the cost of respiratory drugs - even though total prescriptions remained steady
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said that the UK still spends little over 25 pence per person per day on NHS medicines, well below most other European countries.

'Good news for patients'

ABPI president Bill Fullagar said: "More spending by the NHS on the effective use of modern medicines should be seen as good news for the patients who need them.

"And, as the Health Secretary has acknowledged, they frequently save money for the economy and the NHS in the long run through improved healthcare and reduced hospital stays."

A generic medicine is a medicine which does not have a brand name.

A review of the generics drugs market is being conducted by Oxford Economic Research Associates (OXERA).

Its report is expected by the end of the summer.

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | Health
NHS plunging deeper into debt
13 Jul 99 | Health
Drug prices slashed
04 Nov 99 | Health
Drug firms 'fail NHS'
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