NHS England consults on prescribing of OTC products

NHS England, in partnership with NHS Clinical Commissioners, have launched a public consultation on reducing the prescribing of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for 33 minor health conditions. This includes medicines for conditions that are self-limiting or that lend themselves to self-care, or treatments for which there is little evidence of their clinical effectiveness.

NHS England said that in the year up to June 2017, the NHS spent approximately £569 million on prescriptions for medicines that can be purchased OTC from a pharmacy, as well as from other retail outlets such as supermarkets, often at a lower cost than that which would be incurred by the NHS. Reducing spending on these prescriptions would free up resources for other high priority areas that have a greater impact on patients, they added.

As an example, NHS England cited that the NHS currently spends £4.5 million annually on antidandruff shampoos, which is enough to fund a further 4700 cataract operations or 1200 hip operations.

The consultation document includes items of low clinical effectiveness such as probiotics and vitamins and minerals; treatments for self-limiting conditions including acute sore throat, cold sores, conjunctivitis, coughs and colds, and haemorrhoids; and treatments for minor ailments suitable for self-care including dandruff, head lice, indigestion, mild to moderate hay fever, mouth ulcers, athletes foot, minor pain and travel sickness. If routine prescribing of all these items in NHS England ended, this could release up to £136 million for use in more serious illnesses.

The consultation follows pressure from CCGs for consistent, national commissioning guidance on OTC prescribing, to address unwarranted variation across the country. You can respond to the consultation using the online web form available from the NHS England website (www.engage.england.nhs.uk), or by emailing enland.medicines@nhs.net. The consultation period closes on 14 March, following which the NHS England/NHS Clinical Commissioners joint clinical working group will develop final commissioning guidance for CCGs.

The consultation on OTC medicines represents the second phase of NHS England/NHS Clinical Commissioners review of items prescribed in primary care that are of low priority for NHS funding. At the end of November last year, they issued final guidance to CCGs on treatments of low clinical value that should not be routinely prescribed in primary care, including products such as co-proxamol, dosulepin, prolonged-release doxazosin, homeopathy and herbal treatments.

Web design and marketing agency Leamington Spa