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Drug spend falls despite rise in prescription numbers

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The number of prescriptions handed out to people suffering from allergies, diabetes and obesity increased in a year although overall costs fell, new figures reveal.

There were a total of 842.5 million prescription items dispensed in 2008 - a 5.8% rise on the figures for 2007 and a 64.1% rise on statistics for 1998 when 513.2 million items were prescribed, according to the data from the NHS Information Centre.

Antihistamines, hyposensitisation and allergic emergency drug prescriptions all increased by 5.1% during the year. In 2008, 10 million items were prescribed, increasing from 9.5 million in 2007.

A slight rise in obesity drug prescriptions saw 1.2 million items dispensed in 2007 increase by 3.7% to 1.3 million in 2008.

Prescribing for diabetes drugs increased by 7.1%, from 30.4 million items in 2007 to 32.6 million in 2008 at a cost of £593.3 million.

The net ingredient cost of prescriptions was £8,325.5 million in 2008, a decrease of 0.6% from 2007.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: ‘The reduction in cost may be due in part to the Category M scheme, where the net ingredient cost for some commonly prescribed drugs is controlled, with the aim of reducing costs overall.’

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