Infographic: One billion prescription items dispensed in 2015

The number of prescription items dispensed in the community in England increased to more than one billion in 2015, data published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows.

According to the report, the 1083.6 million prescription items dispensed in 2015 represent an increase of 1.8% on the number dispensed in 2014 and an increase of 50.4% (363.4 million) on those dispensed in 2005.

The net ingredient cost (NIC) of prescribing rose to £9266.6 million in 2015, an increase of 4.7% and 16.8% on the cost in 2014 and 2005, respectively.

Prescribing by therapeutic area

Drugs used in hypertension/heart failure accounted for the greatest number of prescriptions dispensed in 2015 (70.8 million), whilst antidepressants and antisecretory drugs/mucosal protectants showed the greatest increases in the volume of prescribing from 2014 to 2015 (increases of 6.8% and 5.3%, respectively). Nine of the top ten therapy areas for items dispensed in 2005 remained in the top ten for 2015, including analgesia, hypertension/heart failure and bacterial infections.

Diabetes remained the therapeutic area responsible for the largest share of NIC for the ninth year running, at £936.7 million (an increase of 10.3% from 2014). Other therapeutic areas that showed large increases in prescribing costs between 2014 and 2015 included anticoagulants and antiepileptics, where NIC increased by 60.3% and 7.8%, respectively.

Prescribing by drug

Of the top ten drugs in terms of number of items dispensed in 2005, six were still in the top ten for 2015: atorvastatin, simvastatin, aspirin, salbutamol, levothyroxine and paracetamol. Simvastatin was the most dispensed drug in 2015 (34.4 million prescription items), followed by omeprazole (30.1 million items) and levothyroxine (29.7 million items).

Fluticasone propionate inhalers had the highest NIC in 2015 (£376.0 million), rising from second highest in 2005. Atorvastatin, which was responsible for the largest share of NIC in 2005, has now dropped to the 29th costliest drug following the introduction of cheaper generic versions. Enteral nutrition was ranked in eighth position for NIC in 2005 and has now risen to third costliest medicine, with an NIC of £266.7 million in 2015.

Overall, 89.7% of prescription items were dispensed free of charge, with 60.4% of all prescription items dispensed free of charge to patients claiming age exemption (aged 60 and over).

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