18 January 2008
The English NHS could save more than £200m a year from its £8bn prescription drugs bill by ensuring that GPs prescribe generic rather than branded medicines, MPs have found.
A report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee on January 17 highlighted huge variations in the proportion of generic drugs prescribed in primary care trusts. For example, this varied between 28% and 86% for statins, used to treat heart disease.
The MPs also warned about the influence of drugs industry advertising on GPs' prescribing habits. PAC chair Edward Leigh said: 'The pharmaceutical industry spends £850m each year on marketing its products to GPs. One-fifth of all GPs surveyed by the National Audit Office say that their behaviour in prescribing drugs is more influenced by pharmaceutical company marketing than by NHS advice.'
The report urges the Department of Health to set a limit on the value of goods or hospitality that GPs can accept from drugs firms without disclosure to their PCT. And PCTs should publish registers of such gifts.