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NHS

Hunt announces intention to display drug costs on packaging

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) said in a speech on 1 July 2015 that costs to the NHS would be displayed on drug packaging where medicines cost more than £20, along with the statement “Funded by the UK taxpayer”

Source: Jdfirth / Wikimedia Commons

Displaying drug costs on packaging will reduce waste by reminding people of the cost of medicine, says health secretary Jeremy Hunt

The UK government is to publish the indicative cost of drugs on their packaging, in a move that it hopes will reduce medicines waste and improve adherence.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a speech on 1 July 2015 that costs to the NHS would be displayed on drug packaging where medicines cost more than £20, along with the statement funded by the UK taxpayer”.

“This will not just reduce waste by reminding people of the cost of medicine, but also improve patient care by boosting adherence to drug regimes,” said Hunt. “I will start the processes to make this happen in 2015, with an aim to implement it in 2016.”

However, pharmacy organisations have warned that there may be unintended consequences.

“Some patients, particularly older people, could be deterred from taking the medicines they need because they are worried about the impact on the public purse,” says Pharmacy Voice, which represents three community pharmacy associations.

Pharmacy Voice also warns that any system that requires community pharmacy teams to explain medicines pricing to patients and the public would be unsustainable.

Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, is more supportive. “We think it’s important for the public to be better informed about how money is spent in the NHS,” he says.

Hunt’s announcement on displaying drug costs, made during a speech to the Local Government Association annual conference in Harrogate, is part of his call for a new social contract between the public, health and care services.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068862

Readers' comments (8)

  • Praful

    Why £20? I personally think it should be £10.

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  • There could be all types of consequences such as patients comparing medication costs and then badgering G.P.'s on why they only were prescribed inexpensive products "when my friend who has the same complaint was prescribed the expensive cure"!!!!
    There might even be some unscrupulous types who try to sell their medication as happened with some products such as Temazepam in my past pharmaceutical experience.
    Once again this Health Minister is seeking to make changes without the experience "at the coal face" to understand the consequences of his actions
    GERRY GREEN ex major multiple pharmacist superintendent

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  • I think it is a nice idea in theory, but will be very difficult to implement.
    Will it be £20 per box? What about the person who gets 10 boxes of test strips @£15 per box?
    There will also end up with a lot of items being sold on ebay as now everyone knows that they are pricy items.
    Is there a plan to deal with that?

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  • What about medicines supplied against a private prescription? They are not funded by the UK taxpayer. Maybe we should print the NHS cost on the dispensing label instead? Has this been thought through?

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  • Can anyone direct me to where or to whom I could get more information regarding this initiative?

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  • Hopefully common sense will prevail and this idea binned.

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  • While we're at it, why don't we display the cost of a GP appointment on appointment slips, advertise the cost of an A&E visit, hospital admissions. We could even inform patients of the cost of the operation they're planning to have. We could save millions by detering the most vulnerable and needy out there! The challenge is to talk to patients about their medicines in order to address adherence in a sensible way, and optimise medicines use. Don't think we will have much success in preventing the huge Long-Term Conditions burden pending over us by scaring people into not using their medicines.

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  • Interesting that Mr Hunt believes the public to be so conscious about how much is spent on their medicines. I'm wondering where this evidence comes from, and where the notion that visible pricing improves patient care originated; seems like bureaucratic nonsense. Surely all this will achieve is making a small portion of the population feel guilty for taking advantage of a resource to which they are fully entitled?

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