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NHS

Government outlines plans to print price of drugs on dispensing labels

The Department of Health (DH) has begun consulting on its proposal to include the cost of drugs to the NHS on dispensing labels.

Under the scheme, all medicines costing more than £20 dispensed by the NHS in England would be labelled with their cost as well as a statement about how the medicine is paid for, such as “funded by the taxpayer”.

The plans were first announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt during a speech in July 2015. The government now wants to amend the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 to pave the way for the scheme to be implemented in England.

It says the scheme is intended to reduce medicine wastage and improve adherence. The DH acknowledges that it is a “complex issue” in its consultation documents, but says making people aware of the costs of medicines will contribute to improved adherence.

The changes to dispensing labels will need to be “carefully designed and tested” to prevent negative effects, the DH adds, such as patients discontinuing their medications because of concerns over costs, and it is exploring how to support pharmacists to deal with patients’ questions.

The scheme would affect around 10% of medicines, which the DH says currently make up 60% of the total budget for NHS medicines. However, the proposals would initially only apply to medicines dispensed in the community and not in hospitals.

The proposed amendments would also give other UK governments the freedom to implement similar schemes, but so far nothing has been announced and the Scottish Government has said it has no plans to introduce such measures.

The consultation[1] runs until 17 May 2016.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20200929

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