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Prescribing data

Rise in prescription items per person in past decade

Statistics reveal that the average number of prescription items issued per person in England rose from 13 per person per year in 2003 to 19 per person in 2013.

The average number of prescription items issued per person has grown steadily from 13 per person per year in 2003 to 19 in 2013

Source: Vladislav Kochelaevskiy / Dreamstime.com

The average number of prescription items issued per person has risen steadily from 13 per person per year in 2003 to 19 in 2013

More than 1.03 billion items were prescribed in England last year at a cost of £8.63 billion – a 58.5% increase in items and a 14.8% rise in costs compared to 2003 figures, a report from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows.

The most expensive therapeutic area was for diabetes, with England spending £793.8 million for 44.6 million prescription items. Areas that saw a significant fall in the number of items dispensed included antibacterials, diuretics, substance dependence products, hypnotics and anxiolytics, and oral nutrition products.

The report revealed that 90% of all items were exempt from prescription charges, with nearly 60% being for people over 60. This age group accounted for just over half of drug costs. Kingsley Manning, the chair of the HSCIC, said the data would assist the NHS in understanding the provision required for England’s ageing population.

The average number of prescription items issued per person has grown steadily from 13 per person per year in 2003 to 19 in 2013. The report suggests this is likely to be due to the increased emphasis on preventative medicine, improved evidence for new medicines, and changes in the duration of treatments. The report finds that the average net ingredient cost has decreased over the same time period, from £11.56 per prescription item in 2003 down to £8.36 in 2013.

Expenditure on antidepressant drugs saw the largest increase in net ingredient costs between 2012 and 2013 (see ‘The rise of antidepressants’). The number of items dispensed increased by 6.3% to 53.3million and costs rose by 33.6% to £282.1million.

The drug that saw the greatest fall in cost in a year was also the product that had the greatest increase in the number of items dispensed. Costs for the heart drug atorvastatin fell from £166.6million in 2012 to £42.4million in 2013, while prescription items rose from 12.8m to 18.3m over the same period. The reduced cost was due to the expiry of the product’s patent, a factor which also affected the costs associated with the cardiac drug, candesartan cilexetil, and the antipsychotic agent, quetiapine.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has welcomed the figures, saying they show the UK gets excellent value for money.

Spending on antidepressants has increased between 2003 and 2014 in England

Source: HSCIC

 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20065757

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