The number of National Health Service (NHS) prescriptions dispensed in Scotland rose 3.1% to 82 million during 2007-8, and the overall cost of pharmaceutical services to NHS Scotland was £1.01 billion, equal to £187 per person registered with a general practitioner (GP), say new government figures.

However, the average cost of a prescription to NHS Scotland fell to £12.41 from £12.55 in the previous year, with the costs being kept down by a slight (0.5%) rise in the prescribing of generics - which now account for 82.1% of the total - and also a reduction in the cost of several commonly-prescribed drugs, according to the figures, which have been published by NHS National Services Scotland’s Information Services Division (ISD).

The Scottish Executive government has announced that it will abolish NHS prescription charges by 2011 through a phased reduction, which began with a 25% cut to £5.00 last April.

In terms of volume, the most commonly-prescribed drug in Scotland last year was, once again, aspirin, which was used primarily for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, while the most expensive prescribed drug was Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowered Lipitor (atorvastatin).

The vast majority of prescriptions in Scotland continue to be issued by GPs, and in 2007-8 nurse prescribing accounted for 715,466 items, which is only 1% of the total. However, this is an increase of 31.1% compared to 2006-7, says the ISD, which adds that the most widely-prescribed items by nurses last year continued to be dressings, followed by prescriptions for infections and skin conditions.

QOF: improvements in depression

The new ISD data also examine Scottish GPs’ performance in terms of Quality & Outcomes Framework (QOF) evidence-based indicators of individual health conditions. They show that, last year, the biggest improvement was in depression, with practices achieving, on average, 94.9% of the 33 QOF points available for depression indicators, compared with 84.8% in 2006-7.