The cost of prescriptions issued by general practices in England and Wales jumped 2.9% to £9.16 billion in 2014, overshooting inflation (0.5%) and thus representing an increased cost to the National Health Service, with diabetes drugs accounting for the lion’s share. 

After diabetes, the highest prescription-associated costs were for respiratory corticosteroids, analgesics, antiepileptics and oral nutrition products, according to a review of prescribing trends carried out by media and marketing services company Cogora.

However, this is likely to change in coming years with an influx of cheaper generics, including for top diabetes performer Sanofi’s Lantus (insulin glargine), which is due to lose patent protection this year, it noted.

On the branded front, in 2014 the highest total costs linked with prescriptions were for GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma/COPD drug Seretide (salmeterol/fluticasone) at £178 million, AstraZeneca’s COPD drug Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol) at £89 million, and Novo Nordisk’s NovoRapid (insulin aspart) at £75 million. 

Again, a different scenario is likely for 2015, given that generic versions of Seretide are expected to hit the market during the year, while Symbicort faces competition from Teva’s rival DuoResp Spiromax (budesonide/formoterol), which launched in the UK last September.

The highest number of prescriptions issued for pharmaceutical brands were for GSK’s asthma inhaler Ventolin (albuterol; 8.8 million), the calcium supplement Adcal D3 (7.1 million), and Chiesi’s asthma inhaler Clenil Modulite (5.0 million), according to the data. 

Interestingly, 2014 saw a 10% increase in the total number of prescriptions issued for strong opioids (compared to just 2% for weaker ones), and while the reason for this is unclear, it “may be of concern considering the risk of addiction” associated with their use, the report notes.