HC Deb 08 August 1966 vol 733 cc996-7
33. Mr. Whitaker

asked the Minister of Health what is his estimate of the approximate saving to annual National Health Service costs if doctors prescribed meprobamate, paracetamol, prednisolone, bendrofluazide and phenoxymethyl penicillin instead of their proprietary equivalents.

Mr. K. Robinson

The theoretical saving in 1965 would have been about £250,000, almost all of which would have been accounted for by paracetamol.

Mr. Whitaker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these are mere examples of how we might achieve a considerable saving of public funds? Will he consider entering into consultations with the appropriate authorities to enable us to make these economies without damaging the Health Service?

Mr. Robinson

If a doctor considers that a proprietary form of drug is necessary for the treatment of his patient, he has the right to prescribe it, and I do not think it would be compatible with this right to seek to compel doctors to prescribe by approved names. On a number of occasions doctors have been asked to do this when it was thought desirable.

Mr. Braine

While entirely agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman's last remarks, may I ask him to confirm that the prices for branded drugs supplied to the National Health Service have been agreed with his Ministry—prices satisfactory to the Ministry—taking into account the research expenditure undertaken here and overseas by the manufacturers in question? Should we not get this matter into perspective?

Mr. Robinson

We are negotiating the prices for these proprietary drugs under the voluntary price regulation scheme. Perhaps it is relevant to say at this point that the price of the most common preparatory equivalent of paracetamol was reduced by 15 per cent. as a result of these negotiations last October.

Dr. John Dunwoody

Would my right hon. Friend consider consulting with the medical profession to see if it would be possible to devise a system by which the cheapest equivalent preparation would be supplied by the chemist, unless the doctor specifically requested a particular manufacturer's product, as from the point of view of treatment this would produce considerable savings at no cost to the patient?

Mr. Robinson

This has been considered. I am not sure that it would produce as considerable a saving as my hon. Friend thinks. However, this is another matter that comes within the ambit of the consideration of the Sainsbury Committee.