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Prescribing costs for 2019 published

The Prescription Cost Analysis publication shows the total cost, and number of prescription items, for prescriptions that have been dispensed in the community in England.

These statistics are designed to be able to be used to give the total number of items and spend for any individual presentation or at any other level of the British National Formulary (BNF)1 hierarchy, for instance, antibacterial drugs or antidepressant drugs. They can also be used to give the proportion of prescription items and spend that are prescribed and dispensed generically.

These statistics exclude prescriptions that were issued but were not presented for dispensing; and prescriptions that were not submitted to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) for processing and reimbursement. Prescriptions issued and dispensed in prisons, hospitals and private prescriptions are also excluded.

Key findings:

  • In 2019 the cost of prescriptions dispensed in the community in England was £9.08 billion. This was an increase of 2.81% (£248 million) from £8.83 billion in 2018.
  • The overall number of prescription items dispensed in the community in England in 2019 was 1.12 billion. This was an increase of 0.98% (10.9 million) from 1.109 billion in 2018.

The report includes the ten most prescribed drugs in 2019-20 by cost.

In March 2020 the NHSBSA changed the way it classifies its pharmaceutical product information. The names of drugs and appliances in the Prescription Cost Analysis publication are now aligned with the Dictionary of Medicines and Devices (DM+D).

Read the full report at:

This release is NHSBSA’s Publication Strategy in action, moving from being a provider to being a producer of Official Statistics. Publishing effectively is a crucial part of our vision of being a Catalyst for Better Health To read more go to









Contact Information

Sahdia Hassen

Senior Media and Campaigns Officer

NHS Business Services Authority

Notes to editors



Notes for editors

  1. British National Formulary (BNF) is a pharmaceutical reference book that contains a wide spectrum of information and advice on prescribing and pharmacology, along with specific facts and details about many medicines available on the NHS It provides healthcare professionals with up-to-date about the use of medicines and includes key information on the selection, dispensing, prescribing and administration of medicines.
  • This is a National Statistic. National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value. National Statistics comply with all aspects of the Code of Practice for Statisticsand are awarded National Statistics status following an assessment by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), part of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA). You can find out more about the UKSA, the OSR, and the Code of Practice for Statistics from the UKSA website. This release is subject to a further assessment by the OSR over the next few months.
  • There are many costs involved in the dispensing of a prescription item by a dispensing contractor. The costs displayed in this publication are the amount that would be paid using the basic price of the prescribed drug or appliance and the quantity prescribed. Sometimes called the ‘Net Ingredient Cost’ (NIC). The basic price is given either in the Drug Tariff or is determined from prices published by manufacturers, wholesalers or suppliers. Basic price is set out in Parts 8 and 9 of theDrug Tariff. For any drugs or appliances not in Part 8, the price is usually taken from the manufacturer, wholesaler or supplier of the product.

A prescription item refers to a single item on a prescription form. If a prescription form includes three medicines, they are counted as three prescription items.