The National Audit Office has produced a constructive report into prescribing costs in primary care, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said today.


​The NAO report identifies some £200 million of savings that could be made if all doctors made cheaper prescribing decisions – savings that are in similar areas to those identified by the Office of Fair Trading’s study earlier this year and which are already well on course to being achieved.

“We support the NHS’s need to get best value for money from medicines and its other services,” said David Fisher, Commercial Director at the ABPI.

“But the needs of patients must not be sidelined in the search to save money. While cheaper versions of some medicines may well be appropriate for many patients, they are not always so – and doctors must be supported in looking at the true ‘value’ an individual medicine can bring, and not simply its cost.”

In this respect, the ABPI has especially welcomed the NAO’s emphasis that “value for money in prescribing includes quality of outcome as well as economy, and that there remains scope for practices to use more expensive drugs when that is clinically appropriate”.

“It is also important that doctors are not constrained from prescribing medicines approved by NICE – which tries to determine their cost-effectiveness – by pressures concentrating on price grounds. A recent survey showed that a quarter of GPs felt their prescribing of medicines endorsed by NICE was inhibited in some way, mainly by cost pressures from primary care organisations, with a further fifth cutting back on prescribing such medicines,” said Mr Fisher.

Some £100m of savings are additionally identified by the NAO through elimination of waste. The pharmaceutical industry supports measures to cut wastage, and many schemes have been introduced – some in co-operation with the NHS itself – to ensure patients take their medicines appropriately through access to better information about their condition and the medicines to treat it.

For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410 

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