The annual number of prescription items dispensed in England increased 62 per cent between 2002 and 2012, so the average pharmacist now dispenses 41 per cent more prescription items than 10 years ago, NHS figures have shown.
The country's 11,236 pharmacies dispensed 1 billion items last year, compared with 617 million across England's 9,748 pharmacies in 2002, according to data published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) yesterday (July 30).
England's pharmacies dispensed 1 billion items last year, compared with 617 million in 2002
More on medicines costs
The net ingredient cost (NIC) to the NHS shot up 25 per cent – £1.7 billion – over the decade to £8.5 billion in 2012. However, the decade has not seen an uninterrupted rise in costs, as 2012's figures showed a 3.2 per cent fall on 2011.
The average cost per dispensed item fell £2.58 (23 per cent) over the past 10 years, from £11.10 in 2002 to £8.52 in 2012.
The number of statins dispensed grew the most over the decade, with an increase of 266 per cent between 2002 and 2012. Simvastatin remained the most prescribed drug in 2012, with 42.6 million items dispensed last year.
The HSCIC said the growth in prescribing could have been influenced by a range of factors, including the growing proportion of elderly patients, who tend to have more items prescribed than younger patients, and an increased prevalence of long-term conditions including diabetes.
Targets to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks would explain the increase in dispensing of statins, The HSCIC said.
Although simvastatin was the most dispensed drug over the 10 years, its net ingredient cost fell by £195.9m. The costs of lansoprazole, amlodipine and omeprazole also fell.
Changes in overall costs could have been influenced by patent expiries, including atorvastatin, which came off patent in May 2012, the HSCIC said. Stock shortages of generic medication have led to a greater use of more expensive branded drugs, it added.
Number of prescription items dispensed (millions)
2002 – 617
2003 – 649.7
2004 – 686.1
2005 – 720.3
2006 – 752
2007 – 796.3
2008 – 842.5
2009 – 886
2010 – 926.7
2011 – 961.5
2012 – 1,000.5
How has your pharmacy coped with the increased number of prescriptions since 2002?