A study commissioned by the Board found the NHS could save £200m per year by replacing two branded statins with generic alternatives, and annual savings of up to £1bn could be achieved across all prescribing.
The study recommends that GPs with expensive prescribing habits should be required to explain their decisions to the CCG – thus potentially creating conflicts between CCGs and pharmaceutical companies.
An embargo on branded drugs where generic versions exist could also see deep erosion of the specialised biopharmaceuticals market by biosimilars.
Branded drugs are often more recognisable, easier to swallow and even easier to digest than generic alternatives – but they can cost up to 25 times as much.
Open Health Care UK and data research company Mastodon C analysed the prescribing of two statins across the country. Many GPs were still prescribing branded versions, despite the availability of generics.
The Board’s Medical Director, Sir Bruce Keogh (pictured), said: “Variation in prescribing habits costs the NHS millions of pounds a year. Sharing of information will help clinicians understand whether they are over- or under-prescribing.
“This will focus minds in a way that will not only improve the quality of treatment for patients but also reduce cost and free up money for reinvestment.”
According to experts cited by The Independent, two mechanisms underlie the over-prescribing of brands: GP practices with on-site pharmacies have an incentive to prescribe branded drugs as they generate more profit; and hospitals buy branded drugs in bulk, reducing the cost but creating an ongoing patient expectation.
Open Health Care UK and Mastodon C will develop software to help the new CCGs target local GPs whose prescribing practices are expensive.