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Funding review for some NHS prescription items

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
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28th March 2017 – Fish oils, skin rubs and some gluten-free foods are among a list of items that may become unavailable for NHS prescription in England under proposals to save money.

NHS England has ordered a review after clinical commissioners identified £400 million of potential cost-saving to their budgets.

They say the money would be better spent on areas such as mental health and primary care.

Value for money

Commissioners set out to identify:

  • Drugs with little or no clinical value or where there is a lack of robust clinical evidence that they work
  • Costly pharmaceutical products that have an equally effective alternative at lower prices
  • Products that are not a priority for NHS budgets or are available over the counter cheaper than on prescription

Announcing the proposal, Dr Graham Jackson, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, says in a statement: "We need to be honest with the population – the NHS can and does provide high quality cost effective care, but our ability to continue to do so will be restricted if we can’t prioritise those areas which will get the best outcomes for patients, whilst getting the best value for our limited NHS budget."

Low priority items

In the first phase of the review, commissioners have identified 10 products they consider low priority for NHS funding.

They say these could lead to annual savings to the NHS of £128.02 million.

Products considered to be of low clinical effectiveness or where there is a lack of robust evidence of clinical effectiveness are:

  • Co-proxamol (£8.32m) – An analgesic that was withdrawn in 2005 due to safety concerns and marketing authorisations cancelled at the end of 2007. There remains some prescribing of imported product at an inflated price.
  • Omega-3 and fish oils (£5.65m) - Licensed for use in people with elevated triglycerides – blood fats that can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, they say evidence of their effectiveness is weak.
  • Lidocaine plasters (£17.58m) - Licensed for treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia, but limited evidence, and not recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
  • Rubefacients (£6.43m) - Rubs and ointments used to treat osteoarthritis, but not backed by sufficient evidence.

Products considered clinically effective but where more cost-effective products are available include:

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