Jeremy Hunt’s plans to include the price tag on medicines issued by the NHS is a “headline-grabbing ‘gimmick’ with no evidence to suggest it will reduce waste, a leading pharmaceuticals journal has said.
The Government wants all medicines costing more than £20 to carry a price tag alongside the words “funded by the UK taxpayer” to encourage people not to let their drugs expire, and to adhere to treatment regimes.
However, an editorial in the Drug and Therapeutic Bulletin, published yesterday, said that experts are “unaware” of any evidence to suggest the plan would work, and warns that it could lead to vulnerable and elderly patients viewing the cost of their medicine as a “burden on society”.
“Adherence can be a problem even for people who make a financial committment by paying for their prescriptions,” the journal’s editors write, “We are concerned that labelling medicines with their cost may result in some unintended consequences and worry patients.”
There was also a risk patients could misinterpret the price tags and consider them an indicator of the medicine’s value, they said. There is no link between the price the NHS pays for a medicine and its clinical efficacy.
Estimates suggest around £150m of medicine are avoidably wasted every year: A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “We make no apology for taking action to reduce waste, and remind people about the value of the NHS services they get.”