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Cost of NHS medicines rises

Published on 14/11/14 at 08:02am
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Hospitals in England are taking an increasing share of the NHS’s bill for drugs approved by NICE, according to a new report.

The NHS spent £14.4 billion on medicines in 2013-14 and hospital use represented 40.1% of that total – up from 37.5% in 2012-13.

The figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)’s ‘Hospital Prescribing: England 2013-14’ also show the cost of medicines rose 7.6% overall year-on-year - but by 15.1% in hospitals.

The world’s biggest-selling drug, AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab), represented the biggest individual product cost to the NHS at £311 million, a rise of 12.5% on 2012-13. 

When it comes to spend on the next biggest brands, Novartis’ Lucentis (ranibizumab) rose 20.7% year-on-year to £244 million, while Amgen’s Enbrel (etanercept) was up just 2% to £233 million.

Breaking the figures down further, the greatest cost to the NHS in primary care came from insulin glargine, at £78.3 million, while Humira represented the biggest cost in secondary care.

Interferon beta (1A & 1B) was the most costly of those NICE-approved products prescribed in hospital but dispensed in the community.

Earlier this year the UK government received a £74 million refund from the pharma industry after it was deemed to have spent too much on patented medicines.

The repayment was the first under an onerous new drug pricing arrangement for the industry known as the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS), which from 1 January this year mandates that pharma can only grow by a certain amount.

UK pharma firms must keep NHS spend on branded medicines flat for two years, and keep the growth rate below 2% for a further three years.

The payments are based on the difference between the allowed percentage growth (which for 2014 is flat) and the actual percentage growth in how much the NHS spends on branded medicines. 

Adam Hill

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