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Number of items ‘dispensed in the community’ spikes 13% in a decade

The latest NHS data has revealed that the number of items dispensed in the community rose 3% last year, while the cost of prescriptions rose for the fifth year in a row. 

Some 1.21 billion prescription items were dispensed in England in the community in 2023/24, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA) revealed today (June 6).

It said that this was a 3% increase from the 1.18bn items that were “dispensed in the community” – meaning by pharmacies, appliance contractors and dispensing doctors or “personally administered” - in 2022/23.

“Compared to 2014/15, the number of items dispensed has increased by 13%,” it added.

It also revealed that the prescriptions dispensed in the community in 2023/24 set the NHS back by £10.9bn.

This was “a 5% increase from £10.4bn in 2022/23” and the fifth year in a row that costs have risen since in a dip in 2018/19, it added.


Atorvastatin most dispensed


The NHS BSA’s analysis also found that for the fourth year running, the “most dispensed chemical substance was Atorvastatin, with 65 million items”.

Meanwhile, steroid beclometasone dipropionate had the highest cost of £320m, it said.

“The top ten chemical substances by cost included three drugs that are commonly used to help prevent blood clots” – “these are Apixaban, Rivaroxaban and Edoxaban,” it added.

And 10mg tablets of diabetes drug Forxiga saw the largest increase in cost from last year “with an absolute increase of £90m”, it said.

The analysis included medicines supplied as part of the Pharmacy First service, the NHS BSA added. 

Meanwhile, a C+D poll revealed last August that atorvastatin shortages caused almost half of respondents to face losses of more than £1,000.

At the time, a wholesalers' representative told C+D that changes to prescribing guidelines and an “IT issue” at a major manufacturer were to blame for price hikes and shortages.

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