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Statins soar as drug bill hits £6.8bn

Statin prescribing costs soared 30 per cent in 2002 as the NHS drugs bill rose 12 per cent to £6.8 billion, latest Government figures show.

Five sections of the British National Formulary accounted for 48 per cent of the increase in both prescriptions dispensed and total NHS drug costs, excluding discounts and dispensing fees, with four covered by national service frameworks.

The five classes were: lipid regulators, antihypertensives, diabetes drugs, antidepressants and ulcer healing drugs.

Total cost of lipid-lowering drugs reached £571 million, accompanied by an 18 per cent rise in costs of antihypertensive drugs to £507 million.

Other big increases included the cost of obesity drugs, which rose 59 per cent to

£31 million, and glitazone drugs in diabetes, which soared by 90 per cent to £22.3 million.

GPC prescribing chair Dr Peter Fellows warned prescribing costs would continue

to climb because of Government targets and initiatives

including national service frameworks, the ageing population and the new GMS

contract.

'We're going to see increasing prescribing costs as people try to meet the quality criteria,' said Dr Fellows, a GP in Lydney, Gloucestershire. 'Man- agement and primary care organisations have got to accept that.'

He called for a further increase in GP statin prescriptions, complaining: 'We're behind Europe and we do need to make sure our preventive prescribing is up to scratch.'

The rise showed GPs were responding to Government initiatives to reduce coronary heart disease, he added.

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