NHS drugs costing more than £20 will, from next year, have the price and the words “funded by the UK tax payer” written on them, in new Government plans.
In a drive to encourage people to complete the entire course of their medication, health secretary Jeremy Hunt says the aim is to remind people that the NHS, which is currently deep in debt and has a £13.3 billion annual drug expenditure, has limited resources.
Mr Hunt disclosed the move in a speech to remind people to take personal responsibility for the cost of their medicines, in order to reduce waste and strain on the NHS.
He called for a ‘change in mentality’ towards the use of NHS drugs and services such as GP appointments, to one with “more personal responsibility for use of precious public resources”.
Speaking at the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Harrogate, Hunt said: “We intend to publish the indicative medicine costs to the NHS on the packs of all medicines costing more than £20, which will also be marked ‘funded by the UK taxpayer’.
“This will not just reduce waste by reminding people of the cost of medicine, but also improve patient care by boosting adherence to drug regimes.”
He added: “Everything we are proud of in the NHS is funded by taxpayers, and every penny we waste costs patients more through higher taxes or reduced services.”
Research indicates that a high percentage of patients do not take drugs prescribed to them in the way doctors or nurses specify or as directed by instructions on packaging, causing an estimated £300 million annual expenditure by the NHS on wasted medicines.
It is predicted that demand for NHS services will rise by £30 billion by 2020, with only £8 billion of additional funding.
The industry trade body has welcomed the plans, and suggested the scheme should go even further.
Alison Clough, the ABPI’s acting chief executive, says: “Under a scheme such as this patients will be able to see the cost of the medicines they receive and understand the value of their treatment compared to other NHS expenditure.
“Many prescription medicines cost less than £10 and in order for a scheme such as this to deliver full transparency for patients the costs of all medicines should be made public as well as the costs for other treatments and services in the NHS. This would show the value of medicines, compared to other interventions for the benefit they bring.”
But the chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English pharmacy board, Sandra Gidley warns: “We agree with the intent to make sure people use their prescribed medicines and reduce medicines waste, however this area is complex; people don’t use their medicines for a lot of different reasons.
“We would be concerned if anyone, through knowing the cost of their medicine, felt they were a burden on the NHS and for that reason didn’t collect their medicines. This would increase NHS costs as illnesses would deteriorate and potentially much more expensive hospital treatment may be needed.”
by Yasmita Kumar