There was a 12 % increase in the total cost of prescriptions for nutritional supplements and paediatric milk intolerance between 2013 and 2014.
A report analysing the costs of prescriptions in England and Wales in a number of clinical areas including diabetes and COPD found that between 2013 and 2014 found that the total total cost of prescribing in general practice in 2014 was £9.16 billion, compared to £8.91billion in 2013.
The heavy increase in the prescribing of nutritional supplements and padeatric milk intolerance is thought to be down to the publication of new UK guidance highlighting the importance of early recognition when managing cow's milk allergy.
Treating long-term conditions such as diabetes and COPD accounts for as much as 34% of the total bill for prescribing in general practice, according to a new report 'General practice prescribing trends in England and Wales'.
The report analysed the conditions responsible for the most general practice prescriptions. It found that diabetes and respiratory conditions were the most expensive conditions to treat, with a spend of £901,649,036 and £754,353,117 in 2014 respectively. Other drugs highlighted in the report were analgesics, antiepileptics, and oral nutrition supplements. The report found that treating these conditions costs the NHS a combined total of approximately £3 billion each year, and that the costs associated with these conditions rose by 6% between 2013 and 2014.
The researchers commented: 'It is important to note the long-term cost-savings that can be achieved by good management of diabetes early on in the disease when discussing spend on diabetes products. The cost of prescribing diabetes drugs to ensure effective management early in the disease is, to some extent, off-set by the reduced risk of costly long-term complications.'
The report also noted that there were regional variations in the amount spent on prescribing, with general practices in the North of England accounting for 29% of the total spend on prescription drugs, compared with 6% for Wales. Wales also had the highest spend per patient, with £183, compared with London, with the lowest spend per patient at £111.19.
The researchers said: 'Regional differences in cost per registered patient may be attributed, in part, to different levels of generic prescribing. However, the small difference in the percentage of general practice prescriptions written for an active ingredient rather than a branded product in 2014 suggests that other factors also contributed. These may include socio-economic differences between regions.'
The report was produced by Cogora.