NHS trusts restrict drug access to cut costs

Like many government health programs, the UK's National Health Service has been fighting budget shortfalls. Unlike private insurers, the NHS makes news whenever it cuts benefits. And unfortunately for drugmakers, the latest news is that some local governing boards are restricting access to expensive meds.

At issue are drugs added to "red lists," which enumerate the medications that can't be prescribed by primary care doctors, only by NHS specialists, the Telegraph reports. According to one survey, more than half of the UK's primary care trusts said they had added drugs to the red lists over the past year, or added new restrictions on general practitioners' ability to prescribe them.

The trusts are each under pressure to save millions of dollars this year. So, some have added brand-name statins to their red lists, including AstraZeneca's Crestor and Pfizer's Lipitor. Some are restricting access to the gliptins class of diabetes drugs, such as Merck's Januvia and AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Onglyza. Parkinson's disease treatments and osteoporosis drugs have also been affected, the Telegraph says.

Now, however, the Department of Health is advising the trusts to look for other ways to cut costs. "There are ways to make efficiencies and increase productivity without cutting back on drugs which have proven to be effective," a spokesman told the paper. "The problem is when people look for easy cuts without thinking outside the square, or thinking of more innovative and creative ways to make savings."

- get the Telegraph piece