More MS news articles for May 2002

Health boards' budgets stretched as drugs bill soars

26th May, 2002
By Sarah-Kate Templeton Health Editor

Scotland's drugs bill will rise by more than 8% in just one year, with the amount spent on high-cost drugs increasing by 43% in one health board area alone.

In Fife the bill for high-cost drugs is expected to jump from £5.8 million to £8.3m next year. This includes the expenditure on beta interferon, for multiple sclerosis, more than trebling from £277,554 to £957,506 and the amount spent on expensive cancer drugs more than doubling to £508,680. Other large increases are expected in the prescription of methadone, which will almost double, and smoking cessation drugs.

Opposition politicians argue that if Scotland's 15 health board areas are left to meet the new costs within their local budgets this will result in further rationing and postcode prescription.

Keith Raffan, LibDem MSP is calling on the Executive to set up a central drugs budget. He believes that this will ensure that patients across the country have equal access to the best medicines.

' Each health board has different priorities, they also start from differing financial states. Tayside, for example, has had well-known financial problems. Some health boards are likely to be hit harder than others and that can only result in more rationing and postcode prescription for patients.'

Nicola Sturgeon, shadow health minister, agrees that soaring drugs bills faced by health boards will result in more postcode prescribing and believes the idea of a central budget is 'worth considering'.

At present the drugs bill for the whole of Scotland is around £717m and is expected to increase by around £58m next year. But the Scottish Executive argues that this will be covered by the increased health spending. An Executive spokeswoman said: 'The fact that more treatments are now available and being prescribed is a positive development for patients.'

©2002 smg sunday newspapers ltd