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Prescription Cost Analysis report published

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The cost of prescriptions dispensed in the community and the number of items dispensed during the 2018 calendar year has been published today by NHS Digital.

The Prescription Cost Analysis, England 2018, report details the number of items2 and the Net Ingredient Cost (NIC)3 of all prescriptions dispensed in the community4 in England.

This includes all items dispensed by the NHS, except those dispensed in hospitals or on private prescriptions.

The NIC is the basic price of a drug excluding VAT and doesn’t consider any discounts applied.

This report provides a national overview of prescriptions dispensed during 2018 and includes 10-year trend data broken down into British National Formulary (BNF) chapter, section, sub paragraph, chemical and preparations. 

The majority of prescriptions are written by GPs and non-medical prescribers such as nurses and pharmacists in England. The remainder are written by dentists and hospital doctors and are published in this data provided they were dispensed in the community.

Prescriptions written in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man are only included if they are dispensed in England. Prescriptions written in England but dispensed outside England are not included.


Read the full report

Notes to editors

  1. This National Statistic is up for review and subjected to changes in the next report following a consultation.
  2. A prescription item refers to a single item on a prescription form. If a prescription form includes three medicines, they are counted as three prescription items.
  3. All costs given in this report are net ingredient cost (NIC) which is the basic price of a drug excluding VAT. This is the price listed in the national Drug Tariff or in standard price lists and is not necessarily the price the NHS paid. It does not take into account any contract prices or discounts, dispensing costs, fees or prescription charge income, so the amount the NHS paid will be different. It does not include any adjustment for income obtained where a prescription charge is paid at the time it is dispensed or where the patient has obtained a pre-payment certificate.
  4. Prescription information is taken from the Prescription Cost Analysis (PCA) system, supplied by NHS Prescription Services, a division of NHS Business Services Authority (BSA), and is based on a full analysis of all prescriptions dispensed in the community i.e. by community pharmacists and appliance contractors, dispensing doctors, and prescriptions submitted by prescribing doctors for items personally administered in England. Also included are prescriptions written in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man but dispensed in England. The data does not cover drugs dispensed in hospitals, including mental health trusts, or private prescriptions. Prescribers are GPs, hospital doctors, dentists and non-medical prescribers such as nurses and pharmacists.
  5. All medicines are shown by their latest BNF classification and proprietary or generic class. Historic data included in the latest publication may not match data previously published. Users should always use the data in the latest publication.
  6. The drugs dispensed are listed by the British National Formulary (BNF) therapeutic groupings using the classification system prior to BNF edition 70. These groupings are listed in chapters from 1-15 but six further pseudo chapters have been created (18 - 23) to cover dressings and appliances as they do not fall under the BNF therapeutic groupings.
  7. The medicines are shown by individual preparation name, often presented in an abbreviated form. The names may be proprietary (a trade name protected by a patent) or generic, followed by form and strength.
  8. The quantity of a drug dispensed is measured in units depending on the formulation of the product such as millilitres or grams or it may be one unit such as one tablet, one capsule, one pack or one aerosol.
  9. All historical PCA publications from 2005 onwards can be found here

NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend. During the 2017/18 financial year, NHS Digital published 275 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888. Follow us on Twitter: @NHSDigital


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Last edited: 28 March 2019 9:39 am