New study debunks the myth of a rising medicines bill

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”.

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