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More than 1 billion generics dispensed in 2013, saving NHS £12 billion

Patent expiry on large volume brands, such as Lipitor, behind figures, say generics manufacturers

Caroline White

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Generics in England and Wales now make up more than three-quarters of all NHS prescriptions, saving the NHS more than £12 billion a year, says the British Generics Manufacturers Association (BGMA), which represents most of the UK’s generics suppliers.

The calculations are based on the latest figures supplied by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

These show that the total number of items dispensed in England and Wales in 2013 was just over 1 billion, of which generics increased from 72.7% in 2012 to 75.2%, largely as the result of the recent availability of generic alternatives for several leading drugs, says the BGMA.

Based on these data, the BGMA calculates that if all prescriptions were reimbursed at the average brand cost then the medicines bill would be over £20.1 billion meaning that generics saves the NHS nearly £12.3bn in 2013, up from nearly £11bn in 2012.

“These NHS figures underline the importance of the generics industry in the UK which provides crucial financial savings for the NHS,” commented Warwick Smith, Director General of the BGMA.

“As well as the savings, the uptake of generics also increases patient access to vital medicines,” he added.

The increase in generic prescriptions in 2013 was driven in part by the on-going impact of several large volume branded products losing patent protection, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), says the BGMA.

Competition among generic manufacturers delivered the greatest cost savings for any medicine over the past year—a £124.2m fall from £166.6m in 2012 to £42.4m in 2013.

And it generated the greatest increase in the number of items dispensed, from 12.8 million in 2012 to 18.3 million in 2013, enabling an additional 40% of patients to receive this medicine while cutting the cost to the NHS by almost 70%, says the BGMA.

“While focusing on the savings, it is also important to recognise that this allows the NHS to make further investment into the next generation of medicines and encourages greater innovation and research,” Warwick Smith suggested.  

“So for our industry it is critically important to remember that generic competition isn’t just about helping balance the books but in a number of ways it is ultimately about getting the right medicines, to the right people at the right time,” he added.

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