ABPI Chief Executive Stephen Whitehead has welcomed the publication of a ground-breaking new UK NHS Medicines Bill projection by the Office of Health Economics (OHE) published in Pharmaeconomics. This study corrects common misconceptions by clearly showing that NHS spending on medicines is under control.


​Medicines prices in the UK are already among the lowest in Europe. Indeed total medicine costs in the UK represent only 0.9% of GDP per annum, compared to a 1.7% average for comparable major European countries. This new study debunks the myth that medicines costs in the UK are high and rising. From the data, we can see how the growth in spending on branded medicines is projected to be just 1.3% annually up to 2015, compared to total growth of NHS expenditure on medicines of 2.5% a year between 2011 and 2015. Given the financial pressures on the NHS, all areas of expenditure must be scrutinised but medicines are too often seen as an easy target. This study questions this approach, as expenditure on branded medicines as a proportion of total NHS expenditure is clearly continuing to fall.  

Medicines are part of the solution to the UK’s increasing health and financial pressures. Medicines save life, extend life and improve the quality of life. Medicines can also help the NHS to save money by reducing the need for longer term, more expensive treatment – keeping people out of hospital when they can be cared for at home.

Commenting on the report, Stephen Whitehead, Chief Executive of the ABPI, said:

“Myths have prevailed for too long. We have to stop thinking of medicines as a cost and see them for what they are – an investment. An investment in the future of medical research, an investment that reduces expensive hospital stays and unnecessary visits to GPs, an investment in research and science to help grow the UK economy and – most importantly – an investment in our country’s health.

“The NHS needs to save money where it can but the medicines bill is clearly under control and provides value for money. Medicines may be an easy target for savings, but they are the wrong target. The UK spends proportionately less on medicines than similar developed countries and patients in this country are still routinely denied access to the medicines they need. This is unjustified and unnecessary.” 

Media enquiries

ABPI Press Office
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7747 1441
Mobile: +44 (0) 7850 312064
Email: pressoffice@abpi.org.uk

Notes to editors

  1. The OHE study, published in Pharmacoeconomics,(£) is based on an improved method to project NHS expenditure on pharmaceuticals in the UK for 2011-2015.   This model provides richer detail about the make-up of the market and the reasons for changes in trends.
  2. The 11th Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) Report to Parliament assesses the on-going voluntary pricing agreement between the DH and the pharmaceutical industry. It found that the UK has the lowest medicine prices compared with a wide range of developed countries, both inside and outside of Europe, and is in the bottom third even when average exchange rates over the last five-year period are taken into account.
  3. The ABPI represents innovative research-based biopharmaceutical companies, large, medium and small, leading an exciting new era of biosciences in the UK. Our industry, a major contributor to the economy of the UK, brings life-saving and life-enhancing medicines to patients. Our members supply 90 per cent of all medicines used by the NHS, and are researching and developing over two-thirds of the current medicines pipeline, ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of helping patients prevent and overcome diseases.
  4. The Office of Health Economics (OHE) provides authoritative resources, research and analyses in health economics, health policy and health statistics both through independent research and consultancy. OHE’s work informs decision making about health care and pharmaceutical issues at the UK, regional and international levels.
Print this page icon Print this page
Please choose the subject of your enquiry from the list below:
Code to enter for submitting the form
Enter the above code here:
Can't read? Try different words.