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Greenfield Report (Prescribing)

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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4.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now publish the Greenfield report on effective prescribing.

Is the Secretary of State aware that what is required now is action? Is he not aware that even the pharmaceutical industry concedes that at least £50 million would be saved by implementing this report, which was produced for him last February? Is he aware that it would also help to stop the soap powder style promotion of drugs, which all hon. Members saw documented so well on the "Panorama" programme last night? Will the right hon. Gentleman, having published the report, act upon it to make these savings rather than seek to increase the prescription charge by lop, which would not be necessary if he made this change?

Not all hon. Members have the leisure of the hon. Gentleman to watch television. His supplementary question would have been more appropriate if the Government were not publishing the report. That is what he asks and that is what I am doing. I would therefore have expected him to welcome it.

Does the Secretary of State realise that every Minister since 1950 has urged the use of the British National Formulary or the British Pharmacopoeia in general prescribing? Will he not bring forward legislation to allow clinical freedom for doctors to refuse substitutes but to ignore the brand name percentage that applies at present?

The first stage is to publish the report. The committee specifically did not examine the contribution that the pharmaceutical industry makes either to the discovery and development of new medicines or to the economy generally. I shall want to hold consultations before considering further action.

Is it not clear that the majority of the thousands of drugs used every year in this country are me-too drugs, that they are not the result of original research and development? Will the right hon. Gentleman, when he publishes the report, consult not only the pharmaceutical companies but the medical profession, which knows of the contribution that could be made to the National Health Service?

We shall consult the medical profession as well as the pharmaceutical industry. I hope that the hon. Lady will agree with me that it is important to consult the pharmaceutical industry, which is responsible for net exports worth about £570 million. The industry also employs 70,000 people. That is important. I accept what the hon. Lady says about the medical profession being consulted.

Will the Secretary of State ask, at the same time, why there is such a disparity between the prices of the same drugs in this country and on the Continent?

As the hon. Lady must know, we have a pharmaceutical price regulation scheme which was accepted by the previous Government, as was the promotional cost scheme. We are prepared to look at these matters.