Adverse drug reactions wastes NHS £2BN reveals Compass
The ongoing investigation by Compass into the pharmaceutical industry has unveiled the shocking annual cost to the NHS in hospital admissions for adverse drug reactions (ADR) as £1.9 billion.
The drugs we take, prescribed by the NHS are expected perform a function, and whether it is alleviating a headache or making us feel happier these are the desired effect of drugs. Yet what we also accept as we passively take the drugs prescribed to us, is that they will also have other, less desirable effects. Drugs are strong reagents, which will create a cascade of biochemical processes and effects on the body. Some of these will be barely noticeable, perhaps lasting a few seconds and having minimal or no effect on the body; or as in the case of TGN 1412, Voixx, or Seroxat, they can put people in intensive care.
The annual cost of ADR to the NHS in hospital admissions alone now stands at £1.89 billion which is the equivalent of 10,000 new midwives and could easily cover the estimated costs of the MRSA infections. This cost doesn't even take into account those who experience ADR while in hospital - which the 2005 health select committee report estimated to be 15% of patients - or GP hours spent on ADR. Nor does it take into account the human cost, in worry, upset and unnecessary suffering. These figures go some way to illustrate the true cost to the NHS for the drugs created by an industry which is ultimately only responsible to its share holder.
There must be a balance between risk and benefit, and it is the job of regulation to ensure that industry is striking the right balance and not taking unnecessary risk with our health. These figures suggest that at the moment this balance is wrong and now is the time to ask the right questions, namely, what is driving the demand for drugs? Is the safety of drugs increasingly a risk? How effective are the drug we take? How much should it cost, and is there an alternative? And most importantly who should the industry be answerable to?
At Compass we feel these questions are essential. In the Autumn Compass will publish a piece of research discussing the reality of the pharmaceutical industry. This project will focus on the relationship between government, the industry and the regulatory bodies. It will discuss the moral paradox - where an industry decides the fates of whole populations of who lives and who dies - and point the way forward towards a more innovative, productive and humane industry.
The pharmaceutical industry currently has the upper hand in terms of research and development investment (R&D) and is always promising the latest miracle drug but too often failing to deliver. Companies are making huge profit margins in excess of 14.3%, against business average of 4.6%, and yet the number of innovative new chemical entities is decreasing; this is tax payers' money funding questionable R&D expenditure.
Now is the time for a debate about drugs, the industry and the costs; as people are paying infinitely higher prices - the drugs bill to the NHS now stands at £11 billion - for increasingly marginal reward, and higher risk. We argue that it is no longer in the public's interest for drug companies to be represented by the Department of Health and insist that a review of the progress made since the 2005 HSC report is carried out.
If you would like to comment or discuss this up-coming project please contact Zoe
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