Primary care trusts are not slashing the drugs budget as a cost-cutting move under the NHS’ quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) programme, a leading Department of Health official has told PharmaTimes.

In an exclusive interview with PharmaTimes Magazine for the July/August issue, Peter Rowe, national lead for medicines use and procurement within the DH’s QIPP programme, disputed rumours that QIPP was being hijacked for cost cutting.

Speculation that excessive cuts are being made in order to meet QIPP’s £20 billion savings by 2014 have been floated for several months and concerns have been raised that quality is being left by the wayside as a result.

According to an investigation by the journal Pulse earlier this year, more than 50% of PCTs have allegedly increased the numbers of products that will not be funded – known as ‘red-lists’. These lists are now said to comprise more than 100 medicines and even include some drugs recommended for use by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Meanwhile, there have been reports of other measures being employed to cut the drugs bill, such as recommending over-the-counter alternatives and local incentives for generic prescribing. The British Medical Association has called the tactics ‘slash and burn’ cuts.

However, Rowe rejected the claim that any activities could be considered ‘cuts’. “Transformation is changing the way the system and the people within it work and because we have to release cash there will be tough decisions made. If people want to call these ‘cuts’ then fine but I think they’re efficiency savings,” he told PharmaTimes Magazine.

A spokesman for the Department of Health told the BBC in June: “We have been very clear that NHS organisations should not interpret efficiency savings as budget and service cuts. We have also said that every penny saved through efficiency savings will be reinvested back into front line services.”

This was echoed by Rowe, who also stressed there was no evidence that activities were inconsistent with National Prescribing Centre guidance, or that they were not in patients’ best interests. He added, that the only way to pay for the new more expensive drugs was to free up cash in other parts of the system.

To read the full interview grab a copy of the July/August issue of PharmaTimes Magazine, out 26 July. Subscribe to PharmaTimes Magazine:

PharmaTimes will be hosting a meeting on 19 July where Peter Rowe and NHS national director for quality and efficiency Jim Easton will be discussing new developments in QIPP, including the part QIPP will play in the new Commissioning Board and the role pharma can play in helping with the £20 billion savings target. To get these insights before the summer break, or for more information, click here: