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Published on 4 January 2008

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Warning over indigestion drug spend

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The NHS may be wasting more than £100m a year on drugs designed to treat indigestion, it has been claimed.

Two doctors writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) said that proton pump inhibitors, which prevent the backflow of stomach acid, are being overprescribed.

And Dr Ian Forgacs, a consultant physician, and Aathavan Loganayagam, a specialist registrar, said that other effective drugs could be given to many patients instead.

Prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors now account for more than 90% of the NHS drug budget for treating indigestion, they said.

And the pair, from the Department of Gastroenterology at King’s College Hospital, London, added that while the drugs are “a tremendous therapeutic advance”, they are clearly being overused.

They said that in 2006, £425m was spent on the drugs in England and £7bn was spent globally. But they added that between 25% and 70% of patients taking the drugs have no appropriate indication, which means that at least £100m
from the NHS budget and almost £2bn worldwide is being spent unnecessarily on the drugs each year.

In the UK, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommendations for using the drugs are relatively selective, the authors said.

“If prescriptions were restricted to the recommended indications, expenditure on proton pump inhibitors would be far less than 90% of the total dyspepsia drug budget,” they added.

Copyright © PA Business 2008

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