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02 February 2018

NHS Being Overcharged for 'Special Order' Treatments

News has broken today that the NHS has been severely overcharged by UK pharmacy chains for manufacturing specially-made topical treatments for people with conditions which affect the skin, such as psoriasis.

First reported in The Times today (02/02/2018), payment records show that the NHS was charged over £1,500 for a tub of specially made cream by one high street pharmacy chain, despite the same mixture regularly costing just £1.73 elsewhere. Psoriasis-specific examples of this overcharging include coal tar 10% ointment costing the NHS £274, when it only costs £15.49 to manufacture, and a zinc and salicylic acid paste that only costs £8.17 to make, yet the NHS is charged over £230.

The Psoriasis Association is part of a dedicated working group set up by the British Association of Dermatologists, which aims to raise awareness of the overcharging, and urge the Department of Health and Social Care to clamp down on this practice.

Dierdre Buckley, Consultant Dermatologist and Chair of the Specials Working Group said this morning, “For many dermatology specials the ingredients aren’t expensive and it’s inexplicable why they cost so much. It’s not right. We have a duty to conserve the resources of the taxpayer so that the money is used to actually care for patients.”

At the Psoriasis Association, we feel strongly about this issue. There are people with psoriasis who rely on these treatments to manage their skin to an acceptable level, and the inflated cost of special-order medicines has effectively removed them as a much-needed treatment option. Being unable to obtain a familiar and reliable treatment brings with it a great deal of anxiety, as well as the risk of their condition worsening, resulting in further appointments. At a time when waiting lists for Dermatology services are extremely stretched, this not only places further burden on the NHS, but also leaves patients trying to cope with their condition in an impossible situation.

If you have experienced problems in obtaining an unbranded, special-order topical treatment for your psoriasis and would be happy to share your experience, please get in touch with us.