Latest data from NHS Digital shows an increase in the number of prescription items dispensed in the community, but a drop in their cost to the NHS.

In 2018, 1.1 billion prescription items were handed out in the community setting, marking an increase of 0.3% (2.9 million) from 1.1 billion in 2017.

However, in the same year, the net ingredient cost (NIC) of prescriptions was £8.8 billion, a decrease of 3.7% (£336.6 million) from the £9.2 billion spent in 2017.

The top three treatments by NIC for 2018 were enteral nutrition (£2.64 billion), the corticosteroid beclometasone dipropionate (£2.38 billion) and the anticoagulant apixaban (£2.23 billion).

The number one drug for 2017, the corticosteroid fluticasone propionate, slipped to fourth place last year, with a NIC of £2.15 billion.

In 2017, the number of prescriptions rose 0.15% to 1.11 billion, while the NIC dipped 0.41% – or £37.6 million – from 2016 to £9.17 billion.