Antidepressants account for largest annual rise in prescriptions

Just under 46.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in England in 2011; a 3.9 million item (9.1 per cent) increase on 2017

This is the largest rise in items of any of the 200 sections listed within the British National Formulary, which categorises all prescribed drugs in England by chapter and section4, based on therapeutic action.

The Central Nervous System chapter, which includes antidepressants and other sections relating to mental health and neurological conditions, also saw the biggest increase in items of any of the 15 chapters over the same period – with 172.4 million items dispensed; an 8.9 million item (5.4 per cent) rise on the previous year.

This is also the chapter showing the greatest cost (£1.954 million) and the chapter with the greatest increase in cost (£80.6 million) in 2011. Several sections within this chapter saw large rises including antiepileptic drugs, which totalled 15.5 million items in 2011; a rise of nearly 1.5 million items (10.6 per cent) on the previous year. Drugs for dementia also increased during the same period by 0.3 million items (18 per cent) to reach nearly 1.7 million.

Today’s report; Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community, England, 2011, shows that while the number of prescription items overall increased compared to the previous year, the total net ingredient cost to the NHS has fallen . The report shows that for prescriptions dispensed in the community in 2011:

961.5 million prescription items overall were dispensed, a 34.9 million item (3.8 per cent) increase on the previous year. This equates to an average of 18.3 prescription items per head of the population, compared to 17.7 items in the previous year.The total net ingredient cost of prescriptions dispensed in the community to the NHS was £8.8 billion, a 0.3 per cent fall on the previous year, while the average cost per head of the population fell to £167.22, compared to £169.13 in 2010.

HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: “The NHS spends a significant amount of its budget on medicines and as such it is important to understand which are being prescribed and at what cost.

“The rise in prescription items dispensed in England, which equates to an average of about 18 items a year for every person in the country, may well reflect the evolving demands of our ageing society, prescribing practises and the availability of more treatments. However while items are increasing, the net cost to the NHS is actually falling; which may be due to the steady increase in use of generic formulations of commonly prescribed drugs.”