The amount the National Health Service spends on medicines is on the up, forecast to grow 7.6% to £14.4 billion for 2013/14.

The figures, from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), also show that the cost of treatments in hospitals is continuing to rise at a greater rate than those in primary care, and account for a growing proportion of the total estimated spend on medicines.

The amount of cash spent by hospitals on medicines now takes up for 40.1% of the total bill, compared to 37.5% last year, which, the HSCIC notes, is likely because of the launch of new and innovative medicines and the increased use of heavily-priced specialised therapies. That spent by primary care on drugs slipped from 61.2% to 58.8%.

Delving deeper into the figures, out of the National Institute for Health Care Excellence approved medicines the most was spent in primary care on insulin glargine (£78 million) followed by buprenorphine (£65 million), while in secondary care AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab; £294 million) and Roche/Novartis’ Lucentis (ranibizumab; £243 million) topped the list.

Overall, the top three NICE-approved medicines in terms of cost to the NHS were the biologics Humira (£311 million), Lucentis (243 million), and Amgen’s Enbrel (etanercept; £233 million).

"It is encouraging to see growth in prescribing of medicines in hospital settings as appropriate prescribing of medicines plays a valuable part in care pathways,” said David Watson, Head of Commercial at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

But, “despite this overall increase in hospital prescribing there remains an issue in the UK with the use of newer innovative medicines, where many barriers still exist which prevent their use,” he noted.