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NHS ‘rip-off’ with £1,000 for bottle of mouthwash

THE NHS is being ‘ripped off’ by drug companies, with one charging more than £1,000 for a bottle of mouthwash, MPs have been told.

Dr Philippa Whitford, the SNP’s health spokeswoman, urged the government to use powers to crack down on ‘drug racketeering’, as the price of some treatments is being increased to ‘hundreds of times’ more than their true value.

‘NHS England is being ripped off to the tune of £230million a year as the price of some off-patent drugs and non-standard preparations or specials have been hiked up hundreds of times,’ she said.

‘An example is [a charge] of more than £1,000 for a bottle of pain-relieving mouthwash.

‘In Scotland, specials remain in house to keep the price down but, a year and a half on from the Health Service Medical Supplies Act, why has the government not used the powers to stop this drug racketeering?’ she asked.

Health minister Stephen Barclay replied: ‘It is an area we are looking at because, as we commit an extra £20billion of funding to the NHS, our commitment is to ensure we drive value for money from that investment and that applies to specials as well.’

Dr Whitford also urged the minister to ‘reverse the disastrous marketisation of NHS England’.

‘The healthcare market in NHS England is estimated to cost £5billion to £10billion a year and wastes 2.5million nursing hours a week on non-clinical paperwork. Does the minister not recognise this is the biggest inefficiency?’ she added.

Mr Barclay said he was ‘driving improvements in productivity’ and ‘looking at a range of efficiencies’ to make the best use of the NHS budget and to avoid wasting taxpayer money.