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  • Drug cost in the whole NHS remained relatively flat between 2010/11 and 2012/13 and then rose rapidly up to 2015/16
  • Between 2010/11 and 2015/16 drug cost rose by 20% from £14.1bn to £17.0bn at an average rate of 5.2% per year
  • It rose at the fastest rate in hospitals where the cost increased at an average rate of 11.1% per year from £8.6bn in 2010/11 to £9.0bn in 2015/16 while it fell at an average rate of 0.6% per year for primary care, from £9.4bn to £9.2bn.

Drug cost increased by 20% (3.7% per year) between 2010/11 and 2015/16 in recent years reaching £17.0bn in 2015/16. It remained relatively flat between 2010/11 and 2012/13, rising by 0.2% in 2011/12 and falling by 0.7% in 2012/13. From 2013/14 to 2015/16 it rose at an average rate of 6.8% per year.

Primary care sector accounts for the largest share of total spending on drugs, 54% in 2015/16. Between 2010/11 and 2015/16, drug cost in primary care fell by 3% (0.6% per year) from £9.4bn to £9.2bn. During that period, it fell by -2.7% and -5.9% in 2011/12 and 2012/13 respectively, before rising again in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16. Although 2015/16 saw the biggest increase (3.2%) in drug cost in the primary care sector, spending is still below 2010/11 level.

The most rapid increase has been seen among hospitals where spending on drugs rose by 69.0% (11.1% per year) from £4.6bn in 2010/11 to £7.7bn in 2015/16.

The cost of drug prescribed in hospitals but dispensed in the community accounts for a small share of the total cost (0.9%) and fell at an average rate of 4.8% during that period.

Read more in A year of plenty – an analysis of NHS finances and consultant productivity.

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