The UK government is to publish the indicative cost of drugs on their packaging, in a move that it hopes will reduce medicines waste and improve adherence.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a speech on 1 July 2015 that costs to the NHS would be displayed on drug packaging where medicines cost more than £20, along with the statement “funded by the UK taxpayer”.
“This will not just reduce waste by reminding people of the cost of medicine, but also improve patient care by boosting adherence to drug regimes,” said Hunt. “I will start the processes to make this happen in 2015, with an aim to implement it in 2016.”
However, pharmacy organisations have warned that there may be unintended consequences.
“Some patients, particularly older people, could be deterred from taking the medicines they need because they are worried about the impact on the public purse,” says Pharmacy Voice, which represents three community pharmacy associations.
Pharmacy Voice also warns that any system that requires community pharmacy teams to explain medicines pricing to patients and the public would be unsustainable.
Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, is more supportive. “We think it’s important for the public to be better informed about how money is spent in the NHS,” he says.
Hunt’s announcement on displaying drug costs, made during a speech to the Local Government Association annual conference in Harrogate, is part of his call for a new social contract between the public, health and care services.