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Drugs overspend set to top £110m

The Audit Commission has forecast a £110 million GP prescribing overspend this year, blaming national service frameworks and guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

GPs' prescribing spending has rocketed by £670 million ­ a 12 per cent rise ­ over the past year, a commission report said last week.

PCT budgets increased by only 10 per cent over the same period, leaving the average trust to find £360,000.

An analysis of the 2001/2 prescribing spend showed spending on drugs linked to NSFs and NICE guidance rose 25 per cent, compared with 7 per cent overall drug inflation.

Prescribing cost pressures are set to continue for at least the next three years, the commission warned.

News of the overspend came as strategic health authorities forecast total deficits of £405.5 million for 2002/3.

RCGP prescribing lead Dr Jim Kennedy said it would be hard to cut prescribing further. 'If you talk to prescribing advisers across the country they will tell you there's very little fat left in the system.'

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