Dispensing volumes in England continue to creep upwards; between 2015-16 the total number of items dispensed rose by 1.9 per cent (20.5 million) to 1.104 billion. This adds to the 3.3 and 1.8 per cent increases documented during 2013-15, NHS Digital reports.
Total net ingredient cost (NIC) of the items dispensed during the year decreased 0.7 per cent (£61.8m) to £9,204.9m. Average per item NIC is £8.34, down from £8.55 in 2015 and £10.90 a decade earlier.
The average number of prescription items per head of the population in 2016 now stands at 20, compared to 19.8 items in the previous year and 14.8 in 2006.
89.4 per cent of all prescription items were dispensed free of charge, with 61.0 per cent of all prescription items dispensed free to patients claiming age exemption (aged 60 and over) and 4.4 per cent of all prescription items dispensed free to patients claiming age exemption (aged under 16 or 16 -18 and in full-time education).
Antidepressants show the greatest increase in dispensed quantities since 2015: 3.7m items (6 per cent) and antiplatelet drugs the greatest decrease. Drugs used in hypertension are the most commonly dispensed, however.
Diabetes drugs continue to have the greatest net ingredient cost for the NHS, although the greatest increase in net ingredient costs during the year arises from anticoagulants and protamine. The greatest NIC decreases come from drugs used in psychoses and related disorders.