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Prescriptions cost taxpayer £16.8m.

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ISLANDERS received approximately 1.5m. prescriptions for drugs and medical appliances last year, costing the taxpayer £16.8m., and that price tag is expected to increase next year and the following year.

Prescription drugs. (25752662)

A possible no-deal Brexit, the ageing population, increasing life expectancy and an expansion in the list of approved drugs are among the factors being blamed for the anticipated cost rise.

In 2019 the forecast bill of pharmaceuticals to the States is £17.9m. and in 2020 it goes up again to £18.8m.

The figures have been released in the latest policy letter from the Employment & Social Security committee, which highlights how while the overall cost has gone up, less-expensive drugs are being prescribed.

The document states that generic drugs and the controlled entry of new drugs onto the prescribing list are keeping costs down.

‘The significant reduction of the cost of drugs is due to the success of the prescribing and formulary panel, which reviews drugs to ensure that only those that are low cost and medically effective are permitted onto the prescribing “white list”.

‘The pragmatic use of generic drugs keeps overall costs down and allows the budget to be better allocated for the limited prescription of expensive specialist drugs which are either new to market or have no equivalent alternative.’

Flagged up in the policy letter is the proposal to allow all drugs approved by the NHS watchdog NICE to also be available under prescription in Guernsey.

If that idea gets the go-ahead it is warned that this will significantly add to the local costs.

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The policy letter underlines how the pharmaceutical service is under a number of sociological and cultural pressures.

‘Despite the ongoing work of the prescribing support unit, the cost of providing these drugs is likely to increase in the coming years as rising life expectancy and an ageing population will lead to greater per capita demand for drugs. ‘Factors such as a no-deal Brexit and the expansion of the list of approved drugs could result in even greater increases.’

The total cost of prescriptions in 2018, including the drug costs and dispensing fees, was £19.1m., but £2.2m. was recovered through the payment of prescription charges, set at £4 per item.

It is proposed by ESS to increase the prescription charge to £4.10 per item next year.

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The fundamental ethos of the pharmaceutical service is that patients can obtain drugs, some of which costs hundreds or thousands of pounds, for the standard prescription charge, or are exempt from paying altogether.

Nearly two thirds of all items dispensed are to people who are exempt from paying the prescription charge.

Within the overall context of more prescriptions, there was a small decrease in the number of paid prescriptions issued for antibiotics, and opioid analgesics, which are painkillers.

There was also a slight fall in the number of paid prescriptions for hypnotics and anxiolytics, which are given to people to help them sleep or cope with anxiety and stress, and can be very addictive.

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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