Exclusive CCGs are sending letters to GPs telling them to switch prescriptions for co-proxamol to paracetamol because of escalating costs for the drug since it was removed from the Drug Tariff in October.
NHS Nene Valley CCG and NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCGs have told their members to switch patients to alternative medication after fears that the annual spend will far outreach the £3.2 million spent in 2014 on co-proxamol.
The drug has had to be sourced as an unlicensed ‘special’, increasing its costs.
A review published in 2015 found that the UK annual spend on co-proxamol – a drug known to have a high risk of harms – was £3.2m in England in 2014 and £2.4m could have been saved by switching patients to paracetamol.
The chair of the GPC’s prescribing committee described the amount currently spent on the drug as ‘staggering’, considering it was recommended for withdrawal from the market in 2005.
But the costs have increased after the removal from the Drug Tariff, from £21.38 for 100 tablets to £49.50 now.
Over 100,000 prescriptions for co-proxamol were still being issued in England in 2014, despite the drug being withdrawn from the market in 2005 over safety concerns.
Since becoming unlicensed, all liability for patients continuing to take co-proxamol lies with the prescriber.
Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC’s clinical and prescribing subcommittee, said: ‘I am staggered to see [the amount] being spent on co-proxamol which was withdrawn from general sale in 2005 and had marketing authorisation withdrawn shortly afterwards.
‘This is a toxic preparation and most practices stopped all prescribing then, any GP continuing to prescribe does so at great personal risk and would have significant difficulty explaining their actions to a coroner should that be required.’
NHS Nene Valley CCG has stated in its prescription newsletter that spend for their co-proxamol prescriptions will reach in excess of £46,000 by the end of 2016 if patients are not given alternatives.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG said the CCG was ’ demonstrating a higher cost associated with co-proxamol prescribing compared to other CCGs in the East of England, and this is an area which the Medicines Management Team are currently looking at closely’.
They added: ’We are just about to remind practices about the safety concerns, lack of evidence and unlicensed status of this product, and recommend that practices review patients prescribed co-proxamol and switch them to an alternative pain management regime.’
Nene CCG was approached for comment but did not respond.