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Prescriptions double in a decade, report reveals

Community prescription numbers and costs more than double in 10 years

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The number of prescription items dispensed to patients in the community in England rose by nearly 70% over the past decade, shows a report from the NHS Information Centre. At the same time the total net ingredient cost rose by more than 58%.

Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community: England, Statistics for 2000-2010 reported that the average number of prescription items dispensed per person in England increased over that period from 11.2 to 17.8 and the average net ingredient cost per person rose from £113 to £169.

But at the same time, the average net ingredient cost of an individual prescription item actually fell.

The therapeutic area (by BNF chapter) with the higher number of items dispensed was cardiovascular system, whereas the central nervous system accounted for the highest net ingredient cost.

The report also shows that in 2010:

  • Nearly 927m prescription items were dispensed; a 4.6% rise on 2009 and a 67.9% rise on 2000. Total net ingredient cost was £8834m; a 3.5% rise on 2009 and a 58.2% rise on 2000.
  • An average of 17.8 prescription items were dispensed per head of the population; compared with 17.1 in 2009 and 11.2 in 2000. Average net ingredient cost per head in 2010 was £169, compared with £165 in 2009 and £113 in 2000.
  • The average net ingredient cost per prescription item was £9.53; compared with £9.64 in 2009 and £10.12 in 2000.
  • 67.4% of all prescription items were dispensed as generic medicines, representing 29.6% of the total cost. In 2009 these figures were 66.1% and 28.3% respectively and in 2000 they were 51.8% and 21.6% respectively.
  • The BNF Section with the greatest number of prescription items dispensed is hypertension and heart failure; the section with the highest net ingredient cost is drugs used in diabetes.
  • The report also contains information on free and charged prescriptions, generic prescribing and dispensing, and detailed analysis of prescribing by therapeutic area.

Chief executive of the NHS Information Centre Tim Straughan said: “Prescribing has a significant impact on people’s lives; and from a financial point of view is of substantial cost to the NHS – with a net ingredient cost of £8834m last year in England. Today’s report is important in giving people and the NHS the information needed to help understand prescribing today and patterns over time.”

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