Cost of anti-psychotic drug increased by more than 200% due to shortages

The cost of anti-psychotic medication increased by more than 200% in a year mainly due to drug shortages, new data shows.

NHS figures for Scotland reveal the gross ingredient cost (GIC) of the drugs rose from £11 million in 2016/17 to £35.7 million in 2017/18 – a rise of 223.8%.

The GIC of drugs for psychoses and related disorders went up by 178%, from £13.9 to £38.7 million over the same period.

The publication, released by Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland, said there was “a prolonged period of shortages” for the main oral anti-psychotics in 2017/18.

It continued: “As a result the price per tablet was significantly higher than in previous years. It should be noted that opportunities for switching to alternative medicines are limited, particularly in existing stable patients.”

GIC is defined as the cost of medicines and appliances reimbursed to dispensing contractors at list price, before the deduction of any discounts.

The statistics show a total of 99,280 patients in Scotland received medicines for the treatment of psychoses and related disorders last year – an increase of 4% in a year and up 36.4% since 2009/10.

The publication covers the prescribing of five classes of medicines used for mental health treatments over the last decade.

Generally the dispensing of anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, drugs for ADHD and drugs for dementia has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years, while the use of medicines for insomnia and anxiety has slightly decreased in the same time.

For four out of the five groups of drugs, “substantially more” are dispensed to females than to males and the figures show more use of mental health drugs by people living in more deprived areas.

On anti-depressants specifically, a total of 902,168 patients were dispensed at least one anti-depressant drug last year.

This was up 2.8% compared to the previous year (877,453 patients), and up 42.3% since 2009/10 (633,791 patients).

Responding to the figures, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to tackling stigma and making sure people get the right mental health help in the right place at the right time.

“Prescribing is a clinical decision, based on clinical need and supported with clear discussions between the prescribing clinician and patient within the context of their long-term recovery.

“All prescribing should be in line with clinical guidelines and evidenced-based practice.

“The cost of providing medicines for mental health is affected by factors such as the increasing number of people seeking help, fluctuations in the availability of drugs and ingredients, and drug patents expiring, which allows cheaper options to be supplied.”

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