antibioticsOf all British National Formulary (BNF) drug categories, the prescriptions to rise the most in 2015 were antidepressants, new figures by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) have revealed.

The HSCIC’s report, Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community 2005-2015, shows that the number of antidepressant items prescribed and dispensed in England has more than doubled in the past decade. In 2015, there were 61 million antidepressant items prescribed – 31.6 million (107.6%) more than in 2005 and 3.9 million (6.8%) more than in 2014. 

The Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of antidepressants has also increased in the past year, rising by £19.7 million (7.4%) to £284.7 million. However, this is £53.8 million (15.9%) lower than in 2005. The implication of this is that it means, in 2015, antidepressants cost the NHS £780,000 per day.

The report also found that:

  • More than 1.08 billion prescription items were dispensed in 2015. This is a 1.8% increase on the previous year, and a 50.4% increase on the same figure a decade ago 
  • The NIC for all prescriptions dispensed in 2015 was £9.27 billion. This is a 4.7% increase on the previous year, and a 16.8% increase on the same figure a decade ago 
  • For the 9th year running, drugs used to treat diabetes continued to cost the NHS the most. Costs for this category, from 2014 to 2015, increased by £87.6 million to £936.7 million. In 2015, the NHS spent more than £2.6 million per day on drugs to treat diabetes. The number of items dispensed for 2015 was 49.1 million, an increase of 2.4 million (5.1%) from 2014
  • Categories with large cost increases between 2014 and 2015 included anticoagulants and protamine (blood thinning drugs), for which costs rose by £83.5 million (a 60.3% increase) to £222.2 million, and antiepileptics, for which costs rose by £37.9 million (a 7.8% increase) to £524.4 million
  • Following antidepressants, the therapeutic area with the second greatest increase from 2014 to 2015 for number of items prescribed and dispensed was antisecretory drugs and mucosal protectants, used to prevent and treat gastro-intestinal ulcerations, of which 3.1 million more items were dispensed. Prescription items for this category have also more than doubled in the last decade, from 26.9 million to 60.8 million (a 125.4% increase)
  • There were also categories of medicine where the number of items dispensed decreased. Most noticeably, antibacterial drugs (the main category of antibiotics) saw a 5.6% fall in the number of prescription items dispensed, with 39.4 million items provided in 2015 – down from 41.7 million the previous year
  • In 2015, 89.7% of all prescription items were dispensed free of charge. Of all prescription items: 
    • 60.4% were dispensed free of charge to those aged 60 and over 
    • 4.5% were dispensed free of charge to all children aged under 16, and to those aged 16-18 and in full-time education
    • 24.8% were dispensed free of charge for the remaining exemption categories, including medical conditions. 

The full report is available at: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/presdisp0515