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Friday, 08 June 2018

NHS spending £315 million on unexpected increases in mental health meds, report

Written by Sam Blewett

The NHS was burdened with an £315 million increase in drugs spending because of unexpected price hikes that included a mental health medicine leaping by more than 70 times, a report has found.

Concessionary prices, the spending on drugs above expected prices, on generic drugs were seven times higher than the year before in primary care, the National Audit Office (NAO) report published Friday said.

Among the jumps in prices were a 7,013% hike in quetiapine and a 6,435% increase in olanzapine, which are both anti-psychotic drugs.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said overall spending on generics, unbranded drugs with expired patents, decreased compared to last year despite the jump in concessionary spending.

But Meg Hillier MP, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, criticised the "exponential increase" in concessionary spending meaning "money that could have been spent on local healthcare has instead been eaten up in an inflated drugs budget".

"NHS England needs to make sure this does not happen again," she added.

The DHSC sets monthly prices for what primary care pharmacies can spend, but concessionary reimbursement prices can be granted if the drugs can only be found for more.

The NAO said concessionary spending was £315 million in 2017/18 compared to £46 million in the previous period.

NHS England said this had created a "significant unbudgeted pressure", according to the report.

Quetiapine was prices at £1.59 for 100mg tablets in 2016/17 before increasing to £113.10 in the following period, the report said.

The department gave causes of the latest increases in concessionary prices as the pound's fall in value, the licencing suspensions of three generics manufacturers and foreign governments and insurers pressuring generic pricing downwards thus decreasing returns for manufacturers, the NAO said.

Supply issues were identified for affecting nearly half of the concessionary spends with the department unable to rule out "collusion" between supply chain organisations, the report added.

A DHSC spokeswoman said: "Our number one priority is to ensure that patients have access to safe and effective medicines.

"We have some of the cheapest drug prices in Europe and although the number of concessionary prices increased, the overall spend on generic medicines went down compared to last year."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Pixabay.