HC Deb 05 December 1960 vol 631 cc853-5
54. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health what steps he proposes to take to reduce the cost of drugs supplied within the National Health Service.

Mr. Powell

I shall continue by all practicable means to encourage, through the co-operation of the medical profession, economy in prescribing in the Hospital and General Medical Services. As regards drug prices, negotiations on renewal of the voluntary price regulation scheme are in progress.

Mr. Robinson

Is the Minister aware that any steps he can take to bring down drug prices, provided (1) they do not result in any reduction of service to the patient and (2) that any savings made are not used for the benefit of private patients, will have the enthusiastic support of this side of the House?

Sir G. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend taking any stops to see that new entrants to the medical profession are aware of the economics of the Health Service and aware of the fact that if they inflate the cost of drugs by unnecessarily prescribing the more expensive drugs they will defeat the whole aim of the Service?

Mr. Powell

Yes. That point was made by the Hinchliffe Committee, and I understand that in teaching establishments attention is given to it.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some hospitals are buying their drugs on the Continent, drugs of exactly similar quality and content, but at a very much lower rate than they would have to pay for drugs imported from America or manufactured in this country?

Mr. Powell

So I read, but perhaps the hon. Member will put down a Question on that if he wants particulars about it.

58. Dr. Summerskill

asked the Minister of Health what action he proposes to take to curtail the expensive methods adopted by the sales departments of certain drug houses engaged in the provision of drugs for the National Health Service.

Mr. Powell

The industry has adopted a code of practice designed to eliminate improper forms of sales promotion. I shall continue to bring any breaches to their attention for action.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 70 per cent. of the cost of some American drugs in this country can be related to advertising purposes? Is he aware that I have brought this matter to the attention of his five predecessors time after time and that the country is paying £70 million for drugs and that a great part of that amount can be related to undue advertising? Will he take some trouble to investigate the whole matter? There is no question about it and his hon. Friends agree with me about this. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors should not have taken action.

Mr. Powell

I am anxious to find any means I can of reducing drug costs and drug prices, but the right hon. Lady exaggerates the rôle of advertising costs in the total bill.

Mr. Chetwynd

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered abolishing the three-year moratorium on price control?

Mr. Powell

That is part of the voluntary price regulation scheme which is at present under review.