Cuts to prescriptions aims to save £128 million annually

pharmafile | March 28, 2017 | News story | Medical Communications, Research and Development NHS England, prescription 

NHS England has identified 10 items that it believes can cut £128 million from its yearly bill. The 10 items are medicines that it has identified as “ineffective, unnecessary, inappropriate for prescription on the NHS”. The items include gluten-free foods, travel vaccines and various painkillers, a number of which are available cheaper over-the-counter as opposed to on prescription.

In particular, gluten-free foods are now widely available in supermarkets and at a far cheaper price than on prescription, with a single prescription currently costing £8.40 (though this is set to rise to £8.60 by the beginning of April). This is an example where the changes are common sense ways of reducing the NHS bill, with a possible £21.88 million able to be saved by reducing gluten-free food alone.

Other prescriptions set for the axe are Liothyronine, a treatment to treat underactive thyroid. This treatment only benefits a small pool of patients and is more expensive than alternative treatments. The potential savings from this drug are £30.93 million – meaning that this would be the biggest cumulative saving on the list.

The next step will be lead a review of the low value prescription items from April onwards and then introduce new guidance for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

An NHS England spokesperson: “New guidelines will advise CCGs on the commissioning of medicines generally assessed as low priority and will provide support to clinical commissioning groups, prescribers and dispensers. The increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at relatively low cost, often for self-limiting or minor conditions, underlines the need for all healthcare professionals to work even closer with patients to ensure the best possible value from NHS resources, whilst eliminating wastage and improving patient outcomes.”

Once this process is completed, there are plans to review further items on the list to determine whether more savings can be made. The next group could include suncream, heartburn medicine and cold remedies – potentially bringing total savings up to a figure of $400 million.

Ben Hargreaves

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