NHS drug cost fears under distribution scheme

The NHS bill for prescription drugs could rise by ‘hundreds of millions’ of pounds, according to a report by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The price of prescription drugs and the time patients wait to receive them will increase because of new methods of distribution, says the watchdog.

The study looked at the new direct to pharmacy (DTP) method of distribution. Under the system, drug manufacturers can bypass a number of competing wholesalers and pay just one wholesaler to deliver the medicine, reducing the discount available to the pharmacy.

The NHS currently spends about £6 billion a year on branded prescription medicines dispensed in pharmacies. 

‘The changes to the distribution of medicines in the UK are among the most significant for many years, and have given rise to real concerns,’ said OFT chief executive John Fingleton.

Many of the large companies like Pfizer and Astra Zeneca have started to introduce DTP schemes to distribute their drugs and the OFT wants the government to act now to prevent a surge in costs for the NHS.

The study recommends that the DoH makes changes to the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme to ensure that NHS medicines costs do not increase.

 ‘Our recommendations give manufacturers the freedom to use the type of distribution that suits them, while ensuring protection for patients and the NHS’, said Mr Finleton.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

Medicines distribution: an OFT market study

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