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Spending on medicines rises by 8% in England

NHS spending on drugs in England increased by 8% to £16.8bn in 2015–2016 from £15.5bn in 2014–2015, which was largely driven by spending on medicines by hospitals, a report by NHS Digital shows.

The £16.8bn spent on medicines in 2015–2016 was made up of £9.0bn on medicines prescribed in primary care, £7.6bn on medicines used in hospitals, and £150.0m on hospital-prescribed medicines dispensed in the community.

The biggest jump in medicines spending was seen in hospitals, where it rose by 13.6% from £6.7bn in 2014–15 to £7.6bn in 2015-16.

Medicines used in hospitals in 2015–2016 accounted for 45.2% of the total spent on medicines in England, compared with 43.0% of the total spend the previous year.

Since 2010–2011, spending on medicines in hospitals has increased by 81.8%, compared with a 29.1% overall increase in NHS spending on medicines. The cost of medicines prescribed in primary care has risen by just 4.6%, from £8.6bn in 2010–2011 to £9.0bn in 2015–2016. Medicines prescribed in primary care, as a proportion of overall NHS spending on medicines, has fallen from 66.5% to 53.9%.

Of the drugs given positive appraisal by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the health technology assessment body for England and Wales, the most money spent on a single drug was £416.6m on the TNF alpha inhibitor adalimumab, which is used to treat arthritis. The drug also incurred the greatest cost (over £391.1m) in hospitals.

Adalimumab received the positive appraisal for ankylosing spondylitis and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis in February 2016.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201983

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