Drug restrictions to save money

COST-cutting health chiefs today sought to pull in the purse strings by making people pay over the counter for medication which, up until now, had been readily available on prescriptions.

COST-cutting health chiefs today sought to pull in the purse strings by making people pay over the counter for medication which, up until now, had been readily available on prescriptions.

Cough and cold remedies, nappy rash creams, head lice treatments and tonics and vitamins are among the treatments to be placed on a new “restricted list of medicines” which doctors are being urged not to hand out on prescriptions.

Instead, the Suffolk East Primary Care Trust bosses have taken steps to ensure patients have to buy the medications over the counter at pharmacies - thereby saving the NHS money.

The moves were outlined in an announcement by the PCTs, which have been struggling to deal with massive debts, as part of a bid for them to “make the best use” of their drugs budget.

In east Suffolk alone, the PCTs are battling with debts of £47million.

Dr Don McElhinney, former chair of the professional executive committee of the PCTs said: “We hope patients will understand that the changes we are suggesting will help us make the best use of our drugs budget at a time when we need to ensure that money is used as wisely as possible in the NHS.”

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Doctors are also being asked to stop prescribing a drug commonly used to control cholesterol levels for many of the patients they treat in favour of a less expensive alternative.

The change is for Statins, a group of drugs used to control cholesterol levels. The doctors are being asked to opt against prescribing the commonly used drug Atorvastatin and instead prescribe Simvastatin, which is less expensive than other Statins and has been placed on a new list of “preferred drugs”.

The PCT bosses say the Atorvastatin and Simvastatin are equivalent at the standard dose and therefore if Simvastatin is more commonly used there will be less expense incurred by the trusts.

They say changing to Simvastatin could save the Primary Care Trusts up to £1.4 million this year.

Dr McElhinney said: “There may be one or two patients who are currently taking a higher dosage of Atorvastatin, who may not want to change, but for the vast majority of patients, there will be no difference.

“In our home lives, we wouldn't buy the most expensive car insurance if there was one which provided exactly the same cover at much less cost. This is what we are suggesting with the list of preferred drugs.”

n. How will this affect you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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