10% of Drugs Dispensed in England are Pointless

BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam In: Medical Negligence

A concerning new Government report has highlighted how the prescription of drugs is becoming out of control in Britain, and in some cases causing more harm than it is good.

The figures have shown that 15% of people in England now take five or more medicines a day and 7% are on eight or more drugs. This significantly increases their risk of adverse effects. Furthermore, about one in five hospital admissions in over-65s, and 6.5% of all hospital admissions are caused by the adverse effects of medicines. The more pills that a person takes, the higher the risk that on or more of these medicines will have an unwanted or harmful effect. Some medicines, such as those to reduce blood pressure, can also raise the risk of fall among the frail and the elderly. With COVID-19 already placing undue pressure on the NHS, this is a concerning set of facts.

Led by NHS England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge, the new review has found that 10% of prescription items that are dispensed via primary care in England are inappropriate for the circumstances or wishes of that patient, or could be replaced with better, alternative treatments. The estimated total NHS spending on medicines in England rose from £13bn in 2010/11 to £18.2bn in 2017/18. This represents an average growth of 5% a year – with 1.1bn prescription items dispensed in primary care by GPs and pharmacists every year.

Health secretary Sajid Javid has welcomed the report and stated that ‘more needs to be done to listen to patients and help clinical teams tackle overprescribing.’ The authors of the report said that while they did not want to set a target for cutting overprescribing, a 10% reduction is ‘realistic.’ The review adds: ‘This would be equivalent to a reduction of around 110m items per year.’

Medical Negligence and Prescriptions

Medication errors can, in some cases, be very serious. When you have suffered unnecessary harm because of a prescription error, this can be classified as medical negligence. If you have suffered from any of the following, then it is likely a medical negligence claim:

  • Being prescribed the wrong type of medication for your health issue
  • Being given the incorrect dosage
  • Being given medication that you’re allergic to
  • Being prescribed the medication for too long
  • Being given a prescription will illegible handwriting or insufficient details on it, which then causes illness
  • Being given two or more medications which should not be prescribed at the same time

Prescription errors are slightly different from medication errors as they are made by pharmacy employees. However, you can likely still have a claim for negligence. You can be compensated if any of the following have happened to you:

  • A mistake that was made when your prescription was being labelled
  • When your prescription was mixed up with another patient’s
  • When it was not ensured that you were made aware of how, and how often you should take your medication
  • When the pharmacy failed to keep records of what had been given to each patient
  • If the pharmacy has failed to challenge your prescription, even if they feel that it isn’t appropriate or could be potentially harmful.
  • If the pharmacy has not checked their suppliers properly to ensure that no fake medication is purchased.
  • If the pharmacy has failed to keep or told you to keep the medication at a certain temperature.

With this new report shedding light on the dangers of incorrect or unnecessary prescriptions, it is more important than ever to understand the ways in which a legal professional can support you throughout a medical negligence claim.

Read more on our medication and prescription errors compensation claims page

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