NHS: Crippling cost to prescribe medications available without prescription

Shocking new NHS figures reveal the crippling cost to prescribe low cost medications that are freely available without prescription over the counter.

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NHS Scotland has spent over £15.8m on basic pain relief prescribing Paracetamol (£8.45m), Aspirin (£2.5m), Ibuprofen (£2.5m) and co-codamol (£2.3m) in the last 12 months up until July in primary care alone.

The cost of these medications over the counter is far less than the actual cost to the NHS, a packet of 16 paracetamol 500mg costs forty pence in Tesco and thirty pence in Asda, despite costing the NHS an incredible £10.61.

Brand names such as Nurofen Express 400mg capsules are being prescribed, costing only £5.69 from Boots however the very same item is supplied to the NHS for an inflated price of £19.55 – a hefty increase of £13.86 (243.59%) and Panadol only £1 in Tesco costs the NHS £7.08.

The data analysed by SWD Media shows it is not just basic painkillers which are being prescribed at highly inflated prices. Benadryl allergy tablets costing £3.20 in Tesco, cost the NHS £18.50.

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Incredibly £1,386.78 has been spent on prescribing Arnica, a homeopathic tablet that NHS England told its doctors stop prescribing in 2017.

Under the heading ‘Does it work?’ their website states that: “There’s been extensive investigation of the effectiveness of homeopathy. There’s no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition”.

The biggest overall cost to the NHS is laxatives including brand names Senna and Senokot Max Strength costing an eye watering £11.9m.

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Other costs to the Scottish Health Board include £90,781 on deodorants, £2,898 on Cod Liver Oil capsules, £110,716 on head lice treatments, £420,500 on Omega 3 vitamins and £140,668 on vacuum pumps for patients with erectile dysfunction.

The above figures do not however include the overall cost to see a GP such as the time with the GP and taking up an appointment.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to maintaining free prescriptions – the cost of these particular medicines is a very small fraction of NHS Scotland’s total budget, and ensuring they are provided to those who need them is an important part of our approach to public health.”

Should the NHS in Scotland follow suit of England and limit the prescribing of paracetamol alone, it would mean that the NHS Scotland could employ over 350 band 5 Nurses and Occupational Therapists or 150 full time GPs.

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If all basic pain relief and laxatives were to be included, then a substantial amount of £25.4m would be available to hire over 1000 nurses and occupational therapists or 400 GPs.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport Miles Briggs MSP said: “£15.8 million is a significant amount of money for NHS Scotland spending on painkillers that can be bought over the counter.

“Every NHS tax pound is vital to help improve and invest in our Scottish NHS and the nation’s health – we need to maximise NHS resources.”

Earlier this month, the Scottish Medical Consortium (SMC) rejected the use of 2 drugs which would change the lives of children and young adults who have cystic fibrosis, with Orkambi and Symkevi both being rejected due to the cost, which is said to cost around £100,000 per patient per year.

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