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Are there hidden costs to drug savings?

Dr Mark Spencer says he has saved £360,000 on his practice's prescribing budget by changing its prescribing habits ('How I saved £360,000 on drug costs').

But it would be helpful to know the following:

  • How much was saved on drug costs for pain management and mental health problems and how much did the alternative non-drug treatments cost?
  • How quickly did the patients with mental health problems start their non-drug therapies after being referred for CBT and so on? And what were the respective recovery times?
  • How did those patients not exempt from prescription charges react to having to pay for one week's therapy before being allowed to have their full month's supply?

Although these manoeuvres might make his practice more cost-efficient, I would like to know that the consequent costs of non-drug therapies do not outweigh the practice's savings on drugs. It may simply be shifting costs elsewhere, even perhaps increasing them.

Additionally, the practice may be delaying the start of the patient's therapy and their return to gainful employment.

From Dr Tony Lee, Alderney, Guernsey

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