Projected spending for brand-name drugs in English primary care given US prices: a cross-sectional study

J R Soc Med. 2020 Sep;113(9):350-359. doi: 10.1177/0141076820918238.


Objectives: To estimate additional spending if NHS England paid the same prices as US Medicare Part D for the 50 single-source brand-name drugs with the highest expenditure in English primary care in 2018.

Design: Retrospective analysis of 2018 drug prescribing and spending in the NHS England prescribing data and the Medicare Part D Drug Spending Dashboard and Data. We examined the 50 costliest drugs in English primary care available as brand-name-only in the US and England. We performed cost projections of NHS England spending with US Medicare Part D prices. We estimated average 2018 US rebates as 1 minus the quotient of net divided by gross Medicare Part D spending.

Setting: England and US.

Participants: NHS England and US Medicare systems.

Main outcome measures: Total spending, prescriptions and claims in NHS England and Medicare Part D. All spending and cost measures were reported in 2018 British pounds.

Results: NHS England spent £1.39 billion on drugs in the cohort. All drugs were more expensive under US Medicare Part D than NHS England. The US-England price ratios ranged from 1.3 to 9.9 (mean ratio 4.8). Accounting for prescribing volume, if NHS England had paid US Medicare Part D prices after adjusting for estimated US rebates, it would have spent 4.6 times as much in 2018 on drugs in the cohort (£6.42 billion).

Conclusions: Spending by NHS England would be substantially higher if it paid US Medicare Part D prices. This could result in decreased access to medicines and other health services.

Keywords: Brexit; Primary healthcare; drug costs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • England
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Medicare Part D / economics*
  • Primary Health Care / economics*
  • State Medicine / economics*
  • United States