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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community - Statistics for England, 2002-2012

Official statistics, National statistics
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
Date Range:
01 Jan 2002 to 31 Dec 2012


This bulletin presents a summary of prescriptions dispensed in the community by community pharmacists, appliance contractors and dispensing doctors in England. The bulletin highlights recent changes and the main trends between 2002 and 2012.


1,000.5 million prescription items were dispensed overall, a 4.1 per cent increase (39.0 million items) on the previous year and a 62.2 per cent increase (383.5 million items) on 2002. This equates to approximately 2.7 million items every day, or over 1,900 every minute. The average number of prescription items per head of the population in 2012 is 18.7, compared to 18.1 items in the previous year and 12.4 in 2002.


The total net ingredient cost of prescriptions dispensed was £8.5 billion, similar to the total cost of prescriptions in 2009 and a 3.2 per cent fall (£281.9 million) on the previous year. In 2002 this figure was £6.8 billion.  The average cost per head of the population has fallen to £159.33, from a peak of £167.80 in 2010. In 2002 the average cost per head was £137.80.  The average net ingredient cost per prescription item has fallen from £9.16 in 2011 to £8.52 in 2012. In 2002 this figure was £11.10.


The fall in cost is partly due to the expiry of patents for several leading medicines and the use of less expensive generic alternatives. For example, the cardiovascular drug atorvastatin , where costs fell by £144 million between 2011 and 2012, from £310.9 million to £166.6 million.


The leading BNF Section in terms of in terms of net ingredient cost, now for the sixth year in succession, is Drugs used in Diabetes . Costs increased for this section by 2.2 per cent (£16.2 million) from 2011 to £767.9 million in 2012. The number of prescription items dispensed rose by 5.4 per cent (2.2 million) from 2011 to 42.2 million in 2012.


The BNF Section with the largest increase in cost between 2011 and 2012 was Antibacterial Drugs , where costs rose by £25.1 million (14.8 per cent) to £195.4 million. The number of items dispensed increased by 2.5 million, (6.1 per cent) to 43.3 million.


A new collection of data on prescriptions dispensed free of charge shows that over 90.6 per cent of all prescriptions were dispensed free of charge. Sixty per cent of items were dispensed free to patients exempt from the prescription charge because of old age (aged 60 and over) and five per cent went to the young (aged under 16 or 16-18 and in full-time education) who are also exempt from the charge.

Administrative Sources

Prescription Cost Analysis


Related Links

Last edited: 27 July 2018 10:00 am