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Prescription costs up 8% to over £10 billion in England, NHSBSA reveals

More than one billion prescription items worth £10.4bn were dispensed in the community in England in 2022/23, according to new NHS statistics.

The total cost of prescription medication dispensed “in the community” in England has risen by 8% since 2021/22, according to the NHS Business Services Authority’s (NHSBSA) prescription cost analysis for 2022/23.

 

However, the annual report - published today (June 8) – revealed that the total number of items dispensed has risen by just 3% in the same time frame.

 

The NHSBSA defines items dispensed in the community as those dispensed at “a pharmacy, by an appliance contractor, dispensing doctor, or as a personally administered item”.

 

 

Costs continue to rise

 

 

In the 2022/23 financial year, 1.18bn prescription items were dispensed in the community in England at a total cost of £10.4bn, according to the latest NHSBSA figures. 

 

This rose 8% from £9.69bn and 3% from 1.14bn items in 2021/22, the report showed.

 

Read more: Lloydspharmacy item numbers dropped 20% over 18 months, data reveals

 

According to the NHSBSA, the 2022/2023 period marks the fourth consecutive year in which the cost of dispensed items has increased.

 

The previous three years had seen a decrease from 2015/16 to 2018/19, it said.

 

Since 2014/2015, the cost of items dispensed in England has risen by 17%, or £1.48bn, while the number of items dispensed in England has risen by 10%, it added.

 

 

CVD drugs most dispensed

 

 

Cardiovascular medicines were the group most dispensed in 2022/2023, with 344m items accounting for 29% of all items, at a cost of £1.67bn, the report showed.

 

The most expensive group of medicines were those for the endocrine system at £1.78bn in 2022/23 – or 17% of total costs for the year - for 127m items, it said.

 

Read more: Pharmacy time spent sourcing medicines more than doubles to 11 hours a week

 

The single most dispensed drug in England in 2022/2023 was the statin atorvastatin, with 58.7m items dispensed in the year, it added.

 

This was followed in a distant second by the gastrointestinal medicine omeprazole with 35.6m items and hypertension medication amlodipine with 35m items dispensed in the year, according to NHSBSA statistics.

 

Read more: DH imposes ‘knee jerk’ generic discount deduction rate hike to 20%

 

Generics accounted for 85% of all prescription items in 2022/2023, up one percentage point from the previous year, and represented 62% of the total cost, the data showed.

 

Of the total 1.18bn dispensed items, 952m were prescribed generically, 56.9m were dressings and appliances and 168m were prescribed proprietary, the report said.

 

 

Apixaban most costly drug

 

 

Anticoagulant apixaban was the single most costly item dispensed in the year, for a total cost of £432m, it showed.

 

The corticosteroid beclometasone dipropionate was the second most costly item, with £310m-worth dispensed in 2022/23, it said.

 

Of the 10 most costly items, three – apixaban, rivaroxaban and edoxaban – were items used to prevent blood clots, according to NHSBSA.

 

Read more: Government reportedly ditches script fee change proposals for over 60s

 

The item that had the highest total cost increase over the year was apixaban 5mg tablets, with an increase of £280m. The second highest was also apixaban – with an increase in cost of £115m between 2021/22 and 2022/23.

 

According to NHSBSA, in May last year, a generic version of the medication became available.

 

 

Average of 21 items per person

 

 

The integrated care board (ICB) that dispensed the most items per capita was NHS West Yorkshire ICB, with 29 items per person, while NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB dispensed the fewest per head with 13 items per person, according to the report.

 

The national average was 21 items per person in 2022/23, the NHSBSA found.

 

Read more: DH to hike prescription charges by 30p from next month

 

At £390 per person, NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough ICB had the highest cost of items dispensed per capita – however, NHSBSA noted that the ICB offers “specialist stoma care”, which accounts for 34% of its total costs.

 

NHS South East London ICB had the lowest cost of items dispensed per capita, at £123, while the average cost of items dispensed in 2022/2023 per capita was £184, it said.

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