UK spending billions on prescriptions

British taxpayers are spending millions of pounds on patients who are being prescribed common bathroom cabinet items such as shampoo, moisturiser, cough lollies, lice treatments and hangover remedies – all of which can be bought over the counter in pharmacies.

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Household brands such as Vaseline, Strepsils, Benadryl and Berocca account for hundreds of thousands of prescriptions every year, National Health Service data shows.

Around 90 per cent of prescriptions are free of charge to patients.

The figures for England, analysed by the Press Association, show multivitamins made up 1.33 million prescriptions in 2015, costing more than STG3.8 million ($A7.12 million).

One of the biggest spends was for antacids, with more than four million prescriptions at a cost of just over STG26 million.

Cold sore treatments including Blistex cost more than STG23,000, Neutrogena cream was prescribed 8,137 times costing STG68,589, Neutrogena T/Gel shampoo accounted for more than a STG1 million and Berocca prescriptions cost STG4,100.

Inhalation preparations including Vicks Vaporub cost STG14,987, teething gels for babies accounted for more than STG38,000 and Infacol colic and wind drops accounted for STG156,486.

Herbal sleeping pills, accounted for 2,758 prescriptions at a cost of STG6,461, while

4Head headache relief stick was prescribed 445 times at a cost of STG2,534.

Cough medicine Benadryl made up 97,629 prescriptions at a cost of STG1.55 million.

Millions of pounds worth of mouthwash was also prescribed, with one type available for STG2.99 in Superdrug accounting for a STG1.8 million.

Hand sanitiser was also prescribed, while Strepsils, Halls, Throaties and Tyrozets lozenges accounted for more than STG25,000.

In 2015, STG9.27 billion was spent on all prescriptions dispensed in the community – a 4.68 per cent rise on the STG8.85 billion in 2014, the data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed.

In 2015, 1.08 billion prescription items were dispensed – a 1.79 per cent rise from the STG1.06 billion in 2014.

Critics said too much money was being “sqaundered” on bathroom cabinet items but the Royal College of GPs said doctors issued prescriptions in the best interests of patients.

Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Prescribing is a core skill in general practice and family doctors will always prescribe in the best interests of our patients”.

Mark Littlewood, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “At a time when the NHS is facing dire straits financially and consequently limiting provision of potentially life-saving cancer drugs and vital operations, it beggars belief that they can justify forking out for prescriptions for everyday household goods such as throat sweets”.