A quarter of the NHS drugs spending of £4.1 billion last year went on just ten medicines, according to a new report.
IMS Health found that total prescribing costs in England, including primary care and community prescriptions, reached a record £12.86 billion in 2010, an increase of 4.8% from the previous year.
This total in English hospitals has increased by 7.7%.
The report, commissioned by the NHS, says that this growth is likely to be related to the introduction of new, more expensive treatments.
The top 10 drugs (Figure 1) were mainly biologics used to treat either autoimmune diseases or cancers.
The most expensive were two arthritis drugs, Abbott’s Humira (adalimumab), with an increase of 19% to £180.5 million, and Pfizer and Amgen’s Enbrel (etanercept), costing £179.6 million.
Novartis’ Lucentis (ranibizumab) treatment for eye disease cost £128.9 million, overtaking Roche’s breast cancer medicine Herceptin.
The report noted the difficulty in biologics, as they are unlikely to be copied and manufactured into generics, consequently costing for the NHS more for branded medication. Manufacturers are likely to make more innovative forms of existing drugs, which would also push prices up.
However, the primary care drugs bill, which takes up 66% of the £12.9 billion spending of medicines in the English NHS, is expected to decrease by £1 billion over the next four years due to a series of patent expiry dates.