HC Deb 04 December 1961 vol 650 cc926-7
51. Mr. Thorpe

asked the Minister of Health on what date he expects it will be possible to procure the antibiotics Tetracycline, Chlortetracycline, Oxy-tetracycline and Chloramphenicol for National Health Service prescriptions at the same price as is now being paid by his Department when purchasing these drugs for the hospital service.

Mr. Powell

I would hope that the terms of supply to the general pharmaceutical services will be influenced by the price to the hospital service; but there are a number of differences which make direct comparison impossible.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that during the debate on the Public Accounts Committee Reports last Thursday—which he was courteous enough to attend—views were expressed from all quarters of the House that drugs purchased by the National Health Service should be at the lowest obtainable price? Is he aware that his action on 2nd October was warmly welcomed and allowed hospitals to buy drugs sometimes at one-third of the price charged by American subsidiaries in this country but that his dispensation relates only to 15 per cent. of the drugs used in this country? Will he bear in mind that by allowing chemists to purchase at the same price he would save £2 million or £3 million in the drug bill and smash the very unpleasant monopoly racket among American subsidiaries of drug firms in this country?

Mr. Powell

I believe that the steps which the Government took were both wise and necessary, but I must point out that drugs have always been supplied to the hospital service on more favourable terms than generally for obvious reasons. That is the reason why I cannot give the comparison which is asked for in this Question.

Mr. K. Robinson

If the Minister's hopes are not realised, would it not be possible for him to vary his contract with the chemists so as to require them to purchase these four drugs through him for the purpose of dispensing National Health Service prescriptions?

Mr. Powell

I would have to consider whether I have statutory powers for that, but I shall certainly watch continuously and closely the effect of the current procedure.