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Prescription volumes fall in England by 2 per cent

21.5 million fewer items dispensed

June 10th 2021

Tagged: NHS statistical reports England

By Ailsa Colquhoun

The number of prescription items dispensed in England during 2020-21 fell by almost 2 per cent, the annual Prescription Cost Analysis for England shows.

This equates to a decrease of 21.5 million items, compared to 2019-20, taking total dispensing volume to 1.11 billion.

However, the cost of the prescription items (each item on a prescription) dispensed in the community in England during 2020-21 rose – by 3.49 per cent (£324m) to £9.61 billion. This is the second consecutive year that the cost of items dispensed in England has increased following three consecutive years of decreases between 2015/16 and 2018/19.

In 2019/20, England dispensed 20.1 items per head of population. This was 0.6 items more than Scotland who had the fewest items dispensed per capita of 19.5, and 5.9 items fewer than Wales who had 26.0 items dispensed per capita.

England had the lowest prescription item cost per head of population in 2019/20 of £165. This was £70 less than Northern Ireland, £50 less than Scotland, and £23 less than Wales.

Other key findings:

  • Atorvastatin was the most dispensed drug in England in 2020/21 with 49.9m items, but the highest cost drug was the anticoagulant Apixaban – at £356m.
  • Sertraline100mg tablets saw the largest absolute increase in cost between 2019/20 and 2020/21 of £78.9m, to £99.9m. (The costs of sertraline increased by 376 per cent between 2019/20 and 2020/21, while the number of items prescribed increased by 7.51 per cent).
  • The cost of prescription items dispensed in England in 2020/21 was £9.61 billion. This was a 3.49% increase of £324 million from £9.28 billion in 2019/20 and a 7.41% increase of £663 million from £8.94 billion in 2014/15. This is the second consecutive year that the cost of items dispensed in England has increased following three consecutive years of decreases between 2015/16 and 2018.