£442m painkillers bill for NHS
The NHS spends more than £440 million a year on painkillers - with the biggest bill in the north, according to a new analysis.
Data for England showed health trusts spend an average of £8.80 per head of population on drugs to treat pain, with some GPs even giving patients Lemsip and Anadin on prescription.
Data analysis firm SSentif examined figures for 2010/11 from the NHS Information Centre and head of population data from the Office for National Statistics.
Researchers found that the overall NHS spend on painkillers in 2010/11 was £442 million.
In some northern towns and cities, the spend per head was as high as £15, dropping to just £3.26 per head in some parts of the south.
According to figures, the highest spend was in Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Rochdale and Blackpool, with painkiller prescription bills in those primary care trusts averaging £2.3m each. These figures are more than double the prescription cost in Richmond and Twickenham, Camden and Westminster primary care trusts (PCTs), despite having lower populations.
The analysis also showed that PCTs are spending thousands prescribing over-the-counter painkillers and branded cold and flu treatments such as Lemsip, Beechams, Anadin and Panadol.
Between January and June, PCTs spent just over £3,000 on prescriptions for cold and flu remedies and more than £59,000 on prescribing over-the-counter painkillers.
The research also looked at any link between painkiller prescribing, deprivation and older age (over-65s). It found a strong correlation between painkiller prescribing and age in the south but almost no link with deprivation.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "It is important that those living with pain should be able to obtain adequate relief. However the decision to prescribe pain relief must be clinically based on the assessment of the patient's needs. There are many factors that affect the number of prescriptions for painkillers dispensed in one particular area and no one factor can be looked at in isolation."