The number of prescription medicines dispensed in the community in England reached 1.1 billion in 2014 and costs rose to £8.9bn, an increase of 3% compared with 2013.
Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre reveal that the quantity and overall cost of medicines to the NHS in England continues to rise. However, the average cost per item decreased by 0.7% to £8.32.
When broken down by therapeutic area, more medicines were dispensed for the cardiovascular system than for any other, with 313.3 million items at a cost of £1.0bn. Making up a large proportion of this is simvastatin, which was the most commonly prescribed medicine in England in 2014 — 37.8 million items were dispensed, costing the NHS £50.6m.
However, neither simvastatin nor cardiovascular disease presented the biggest expense to the NHS. The diabetes drug metformin was the single most costly medicine, at £96.2m (from 18.8 million prescriptions). Metformin falls into the category of endocrine system drugs, of which there were 99.6 million prescription items dispensed in 2014 costing £1.2bn.
The most expensive drugs by broad therapeutic area were those that work on the central nervous system. There were 195.6 million items dispensed, costing £1.9bn.