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NHS “wastes £100m on stomach drugs”

Doctors have warned that the NHS is unnecessarily spending at least £100m a year on drugs for indigestion.

Dr Ian Forgacs, a consultant physician, and Aathavan Loganayagam, a specialist registrar, said that proton pump inhibitors, which work to stop the backflow of stomach acid, are being overprescribed, adding that other drugs which are just as effective could be given to many patients.

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), they said prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors have superseded those for all other acid-inhibiting agents and now account for more than 90% of the NHS drug budget for treating indigestion, which is also known as dyspepsia.

The pair, who work in the Department of Gastroenterology at King’s College Hospital, London added that while the drugs have been “a tremendous therapeutic advance”, they are clearly being overused.

They said that in 2006, expenditure on the drugs was £425m in England, but between 25% and 70% of patients taking the drugs have no appropriate indication.

They added that this means that at least £100m from the NHS budget is being wasted on the drugs each year.

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British Medical Journal