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Prescriptions up but costs falling

New figures show the number of prescriptions to help fight allergies, diabetes and obesity has increased over the past year.

Data from the NHS information centre show that, overall, 842.5 million prescription items were dispensed in 2008 - up 5.8% on 2007's figure. The number also shows a 64.1% rise on figures for 1998, when there were 513.2 million items dispensed.

Figures showed that prescriptions of antihistamines, hyposensitisation and allergic emergency drugs rose by 5.1%. In 2007, 9.5 million items were dispensed, rising to 10 million in 2008.

Prescriptions for obesity drugs also increased by 3.7%, from 1.2 million in 2007 to 1.3 million in 2008.

Meanwhile, drug costs are falling, due in part to a rise in the number of generic medicines being used. The drugs that had the greatest cost of all prescriptions were those to treat diabetes, at £593.3 million.

The net ingredient cost of prescriptions was £8.33 billion in 2008, a decrease of 0.6% from 2007.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: "The reduction in cost may be due in part to the Category M scheme, where the net ingredient cost for some commonly prescribed drugs is controlled, with the aim of reducing costs overall."

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The NHS Information Centre