Cost of medicines has soared faster than house prices

The cost of medicines has risen more than twice as fast as the price of houses over the last 40 years.

Sharp rise in prescription charges since 1975

A series of statistics tracking the changing cost of key expenses over the last five decades found that the price of medicines has seen the sharpest rise.

An NHS prescription in 1975 cost just 20p.

In the next ten years it rose to £1.60 but has seen even bigger growth ever since, reaching £8.25 in 2015.

That jump in price means that the cost of the medicines we buy is 41 times higher than it was 40 years ago.

Rise in UK house prices
Rise in UK house prices

In the same period the average house price jumped from £10,388 to £188,566, meaning houses are 18 times more expensive than they were in 1975.

The average pay packet is now 14 times higher than it was 40 years ago, but the rising cost of medicines means an NHS prescription item costs 1.5% of the average weekly pay packet, up from 0.5% in 1975.

The cost of an NHS prescription has also risen further still since the period covered by the figures, now standing at £8.40 per item.

Many people are exempt from paying this charge, but the Prescription Charges Coalition says these exemptions do not cover everyone with a long term condition.

After the most recent rise, it argued: “The continued rise in the charge for prescriptions forms a barrier year on year for working age people who rely on regular medication to manage long-term conditions.

“The charge applies to each item on the prescription, so if you have to take a number of medicines, as many with long-term conditions do, the cost can quickly mount up.

“Research shows that one in three of those with long-term conditions have not collected a prescription because of the cost. This can lead to poorer health, expensive hospital admissions and affect productivity at work.”

The Government argues that the cost is necessary to help fund the running costs of the NHS – particularly the high cost of paying for the drugs that are dispensed.

Yet, as campaigners highlight, this is an unavoidable cost for many people with serious medical conditions.

While consumers can shop around to save on their energy bills, there’s little they can do if they have a condition that relies on the use of medicines to keep it under control – such as the 5.4 million asthmatics in the UK.

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