Health care pay millions of pounds more than they needs to for drugs


Melanie Newman and Oliver Wright
The Independent

October 5, 2011

The National Health Service is spending almost £25m a year on supplies of an antidepressant drug despite evidence that it has little clinical advantage over an almost identical medication which costs a fraction of the price.

An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) for The Independent has raised questions about the only independent study to find evidence that the drug, Cipralex, is clinically more effective than its out-of-patent predecessor, Cipramil. Both have a similar main ingredient but Cipralex costs £14.91, while the older Cipramil is available for just £1.31.

The inquiry sheds light on the lengths to which pharmaceutical companies go to extend the lives of drugs whose patents are about to run out.

Cipralex, or Lexapro, as it is known in the US, is one of the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the world, but has been criticised for being little different from Cipramil, whose patent expired in 2002.

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