NHS hospital medicine costs rising

Hospital medicine costs in England are increasing, accounting for over 40 per cent of the total expenditure on drugs in the NHS in 2013-14, according to a new report.

The UK Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) report ‘Hospital Prescribing: England, 2013-14’, published this week, provides a comparison of the use of medicines in primary and secondary care settings, as well as information on the estimated cost of each drug positively appraised by the health watchdog NICE.

It finds that the overall expenditure on medicines by the NHS in 2013-14 was £14.4 billion. Of this, 40.1 per cent was for hospital use, rising from 37.5 per cent in 2012-13.

The cost of medicines overall rose by 7.6 per cent over the previous year, but by 15.1 per cent in hospitals. In 2012, the total cost of medicines rose just 1.5 per cent on the previous year, with a figure of 11.1 per cent in hospitals.

Of the drugs approved by NICE, the greatest expense in all settings was on arthritis treatment Humira (Adalimumab), which was also the greatest cost in hospitals. This was the same in 2012.

Commenting on the report, the head of commercial at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), David Watson, said:

“It is encouraging to see growth in prescribing of medicines in hospital settings, as appropriate prescribing of medicines plays a valuable part in care pathways. Despite this overall increase in hospital prescribing there remains an issue in the UK with the use of newer innovative medicines, where many barriers still exist which prevent their use. The growth in hospital spending as shown in this report also reflects the increased growth of medicines for more specialist conditions which have smaller patient populations and are treated in the hospital setting.

“The 2014 PPRS [Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme] agreement is designed to encourage the use of innovative new medicines and under the current agreement the pharmaceutical industry will help keep NHS expenditure on branded medicines in the scheme flat for two years and keep the growth rate below 2 per cent for a further three years by underwriting any further expenditure by the NHS. Industry is committed to work with the Government and the NHS to ensure that patients have access to the innovative medicines they need.”

With the National Audit Office warning about the worsening financial situation in the NHS in its own report earlier this week and the General Election looming next year, future funding of healthcare remains a key issue for all politicians.

Read the full HSCIC report here.


Financial strain putting NHS at risk warns National Audit Office

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