Gluten-free food and suncream targeted for prescription cuts
NHS cost-cutting plans could mean travel vaccinations, gluten-free foods and omega-3 supplements may no longer be available on prescription.
A consultation will be launched next month by NHS England to try and stop GPs prescribing medicines and other items which are available over the counter for a fraction of the cost.
An initial list of 10 medicines has been drawn up for consideration, but more may come under threat at a later date.The list includes omega-3 and fish oils, lidocaine plasters, rubefacients, liothyronine, tadalafil (not all uses), doxazosin MR, fentanyl, gluten-free foods and travel vaccines.
They are thought to cost the NHS £128 million a year, according to NHS England.
Items such as paracetamol, suncream, cough treatments and indigestion tablets could also be included in future reviews.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “New guidelines will advise CCGs (clinical commissioning groups) on the commissioning of medicines generally assessed as low priority and will provide support to clinical commissioning groups, prescribers and dispensers.”The increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at relatively low cost, often for self-limiting or minor conditions, underlines the need for all healthcare professionals to work even closer with patients to ensure the best possible value from NHS resources, whilst eliminating wastage and improving patient outcomes.”
Which items could be affected?
Once diagnosed with coeliac disease – caused by a reaction to gluten – by a doctor, patients in most parts of the UK can receive gluten-free staple foods from a pharmacy through a prescription from a GP.
Foods approved for prescription include bread or rolls, breakfast cereals, crackers and crispbreads, flour and flour-type mixes, oats, pasta and pizza bases.
The amounts of gluten-free staple foods a sufferer can receive each month are controlled by the National Prescribing Guidelines.
(Source: Coeliac UK)
Vaccines for typhoid, hepatitis A and cholera and a combined jab for diptheria, polio and tetanus are usually available free on the NHS.
The health service offers the vaccinations free of charge because they protect against diseases deemed to present the greatest risk to public health if brought into the country by travellers.
Co-proxamol is used for mild to moderate pain relief. It is a combination of two active ingredients, dextropropoxyphene and paracetamol, which is typically included as a lower 350mg dose compared with the standard 500mg dose of paracetamol when taken alone.
Omega-3 and fish oils
Naturally-occurring oils from certain breeds of fish such as salmon and mackerel have typically been prescribed to promote a healthy heart for patients at risk of heart disease.
The fatty acid omega-3 usually comes in capsule form and has been used to help prevent irregular heartbeats and reduce the risk of clotting by making the blood less sticky.
A series of muscle rubs used to relieve skeletal-muscular pain are under review for their effectiveness compared with other forms of muscular pain relief.
Liothyronine is a thyroid hormone used to treat certain thyroid conditions including hyperthyroidism.
Only small numbers of patients are found to benefit from the drug, which is generally more expensive than other forms of thyroid medication.
Certain uses of the drug tadalafil, which is variously used to help alleviate erectile dysfunction and lower urinary tract infections, may also be phased out under the plans.
Doxazosin are a series of drugs used to treat hypertension, but doxazosin modified release (MR) tablets are only believed to be effective for a very small number of patients.
Generally used in palliative care, fentanyl is a strong painkiller that comes as patches for terminally ill patients.
In many cases morphine is considered easier and cheaper to prescribe, and is just as effective for end-of life care.
Lidocaine plasters are large sticking plasters that contain a local anaesthetic, which is absorbed into the skin when the affected area is covered.
They tend to be used when pain only affects a certain patch of skin, but can often be bought over the counter more easily and cheaper than the cost of a standard prescription.
Source Nottingham Post