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Publication, Part of

Statistics on Alcohol, England 2021

Official statistics, National statistics

National Statistics

Statistics on Public Health

Please note that this publication has now been integrated into the new Statistics on Public Health publication that brings together:

  • Statistics on Alcohol,
  • Statistics on Drug Misuse,
  • Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet,
  • Statistics on Smoking.

In its first iteration it presents the information previously published in these publications in the new format agreed as part of the consultation in early 2022.  The consultation outcomes document can be found below under Resources.

We value your opinions on this new look publication and would welcome your feedback.

We plan to publish updated hospital admissions, mortality and prescribing data for 2020/21 through to 2022/23 later in 2023 with the publication then being produced routinely in the autumn each year.

20 July 2023 09:30 AM

Part 2: Alcohol-related prescriptions

This section presents information on the number of prescriptions for drugs used to treat alcohol dependence and the Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of these prescriptions. The data is extracted from ePACT2, a data warehouse hosted by NHS Prescription Services. NHS Prescription Services process prescriptions in order to reimburse dispensers.

The number of prescriptions is not the same as the volume of drugs prescribed.  Each single item prescribed is counted as a prescription item and volume is not available within the prescribing data. There will be different practices locally on the duration of supply for a prescription.

The NIC is the basic cost of a drug as listed in the Drug Tariff or price lists; it does not include discounts, dispensing costs, prescription charges or fees.

The two main drugs prescribed for the treatment of alcohol dependence are Acamprosate Calcium (Campral) and Disulfiram (Antabuse). In May 2013 a new drug Nalmefene (Selincro) was launched.

Naltrexone is also prescribed for alcohol dependence.  It is not included here however, as it can also be used to treat drug dependence and the condition that Naltrexone is prescribed to treat is not available within the prescribing data.

Note: National-level and time series data in this section are taken from table 1 and include data for non-CCGs (cost centres not linked to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) such as trusts, councils and private company providers) and unidentified doctors and trusts. Regional breakdowns are taken from table 2 and exclude these data since they cannot be allocated to a CCG. In 2020/21 data for non-CCGs and unidentified doctors and trusts accounted for 13% of prescriptions dispensed.

Total prescription items dispensed – time series

The number of prescription items dispensed in England in 2020/21 was 167 thousand which is 1% higher than 2019/20 (164 thousand) but 15% lower than 2014/15 (196 thousand).

The general trend is a decreasing number of prescription items dispensed since 2014/15.

Note: this time series has been revised to present data by financial year. Data is only available from 2014/15 due to changes in how the prescription data is processed and held by the NHS Prescription Services. Users should always use data from the latest publication where available.


Type of prescription items dispensed

137 thousand items of Acamprosate Calcium were dispensed in 2020/21 which is 6% higher than in 2019/20 but 1% lower than the number dispensed in 2014/15.

28 thousand items of Disulfiram were dispensed in 2020/21 which is 15% lower than in 2019/20 and 48% lower than in 2014/15.

1,000 items of Nalmefene (introduced in 2013) were dispensed in 2020/21 which is 21% lower than in 2019/20 and 56% lower than in 2014/15.


Prescription items dispensed by region

The regions that dispensed the highest number of items were the North West and North East and Yorkshire. Both regions dispensed 33 thousand items and account for 47% of items dispensed across all CCGs.

London dispensed the lowest number of items (12 thousand).


Prescription items dispensed by CCG, per 100,000 population

NHS Salford dispensed the highest number of items (1,341 per 100,000).

NHS Milton Keynes dispensed the lowest number of items (15 per 100,000).


Total cost of prescription items dispensed

The total Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) for items prescribed for alcohol dependence in 2020/21 was £4.63 million. The Net Ingredient Cost NIC is the basic cost of a drug as listed in the Drug Tariff or price lists; it does not include discounts, prescription charges or fees.

This is 2% higher than in 2019/20 and 33% higher than in 2014/15.


Average NIC per item

The average NIC per item for all pharmacotherapy items was £28. This is 1% higher than in 2019/20 and 57% higher than in 2014/15.

The average per item was £23 for Acamprosate Calcium, £52 for Disulfiram and £64 for Nalmefene. The cost for Disulfiram has increased by the most since 2014/15, with a 240% increase.

Last edited: 14 July 2023 11:00 am