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Generic drug costs remain shackled

Price controls for generic drugs in primary care are likely to remain unchanged for the next year as the european government considers how best to supply the NHS. In 1999, a severe shortage of non-brand name medicines resulted in a 12.5 per cent increase in the cost of prescription drugs for the NHS, significantly higher than the 8 per cent average increase in previous years. //

Pharmaceutical companies were accused of holding the NHS to ransom, and to protect the service from spiralling high prices the government began a maximum price scheme in August 2000. The measures had saved the NHS about £240 million during 2000 and 2001, and restored stability to the generics market. Under the European Directive the scheme must be reviewed within 12 months of its implementation.

The maximum price scheme would remain in force until a decision had been made on how best to supply generic medicines cost-effectively to the NHS. A spokesperson for the British Generic Manufacturers Association said the extension raised a number of issues. Continuing to base the controls on 1998 prices was likely to be painful, especially as a number of important products would be coming off patent next year. Department of Health figures show that last year 52 per cent of all dispensed prescriptions were for generic medicines.


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