The UK has dropped to bottom of the official league table comparing the price of medicines across Europe, a Government report has revealed.


​For the first time, the UK lags behind Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

The figures are published in an annual report to Parliament from the Department of Health, which sets the price paid for medicines by the NHS. The report compares the 2008 prices of the leading 150 branded medicines in 11 European countries, the USA and Australia.

The UK ranks 12 out of 13, behind the USA and all of its counterparts in Europe, with only Australia, a new addition to the list in 2007, coming out lower. (See Table 1)

Since 2008, prices have dropped further relative to Europe as there was a cut in January2009 and Sterling has fallen against the Euro.

Recent analysis by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) puts the UK behind even Australia in the second quarter of 2009. (See Table 2)

David Fisher, commercial director of the ABPI, said: “What we are talking about here is the breakthrough medicines which make huge differences to people’s lives. Prices in the UK are less than in any other comparative European country, yet the UK Government, via NICE, continues to tell patients we can’t afford new medicines.

“I think patients, many of whom have paid into the healthcare pot for many years, should be asking hard questions about why they are not being allowed to get their investment back.”

Additional research by the ABPI shows that the UK spends one per cent of GDP on medicines, less than half that of Greece (2.32 per cent) and Portugal (2.17 per cent), half that of France (2 per cent) and two-thirds of the average of 15 European countries (1.54 per cent). (See Table 3)

David Fisher added: “Spending by GDP provides an indication of what is affordable. No matter what measure you use, the UK is the poor man of Europe. Patients in the UK deserve better.”

The report to Parliament, published yesterday (Monday Dec 14), also the highlights the important contribution the pharmaceutical industry makes to the UK economy, with a positive trade balance of £6.2bn in 2008.

For further information, please contact the ABPI press office: 020 7747 1410.


1) Under the Department of Health’s pricing regime (the PPRS), the price paid for branded medicines in the UK was cut by seven per cent in January 2005 and 3.9 per cent in January 2009. Another price cut of 1.9 per cent is due to be introduced in 2010. Each percentage point cut saves the NHS roughly £80m.

2) According to previous Department of Health figures, out of every £1 spent on the NHS, 12p is spent on medicines.

The full report can be found here

Table 1

Bilateral comparisons of ex-manufacturer prices (Source: Department of Health PPRS report to Parliament December 2009)

Table 2

Bilateral comparisons of ex-manufacturer prices to Q2 2009 (Source: ABPI)

Table 3

2008 Medicines expenditure as a share of GDP (Source: ABPI)

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