NHS England has revealed new plans to scrap ineffective and over-priced drug prescriptions, freeing up money to invest in newer and more effective treatments.
A draft consultation sets out proposed national guidance for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) on medicines that are of low priority for NHS funding.
NHS England says patients are often prescribed drugs ‘proven to be ineffective or in some cases dangerous, for which there are other more effective, safer and/or cheaper alternatives’.
It highlights 18 treatments which it says should generally not be prescribed in primary care, including homeopathy and herbal treatments. Prescriptions for these treatments cost the taxpayer £141 million each year.
Initial action proposed by the consultation involves limiting prescriptions of products for minor self-limiting conditions such as cough mixture and cold treatments, eye drops, laxatives and sun cream lotions.
Commenting on the plans, Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said they would ‘free up funding to better spend on modern drugs and treatments’.
‘The NHS is probably the world’s most efficient health service, but like every country there is still waste and inefficiency that we’re determined to root out.’
Medical Director of NHS England, Sir Bruce Keogh, said: ‘At a time when we need to find all the money we can for new, highly effective drugs we must ensure every pound is spent wisely. An honest, plain English conversation is required about what we should fund and what we should not.’
The Royal College of GPs said it supported ‘safe, sensible measures’ to reduce prescription costs, but noted that ‘imposing blanket policies on GPs…risks alienating the most vulnerable in society’.
The move forms part of NHS England’s efforts to save more than £190 million a year through a new set of national guidelines, open for public consultation.