I have no power to prevent doctors from prescribing the drugs they consider necessary. But they have been asked to pay regard to comparative price when considering whether to prescribe proprietary preparations which are the equivalent of, or analogous in therapeutic effect to, preparations in the British National Formulary; and not to prescribe proprietary preparations, classified by Joint Committees of the Central and Scottish Health Services Councils as consisting of or containing drugs which, in the Committee's view, are not of proved therapeutic value.
The Minister's answer has made it quite clear that proprietary drugs are being prescribed which have an equivalent in the National Formulary and can be prescribed therefore much more cheaply to the taxpayers. In view of the fact that the price of prescriptions has soared and of the colossal size of our drug bill, will not the Minister reconsider this matter, which has been brought to the attention of successive Ministers of Health over the last few years?
As the House will be aware, it would require legislation to ban the prescribing of any particular preparation by reason of the provision of the National Health Service Act, which simply provides for the supply of proper and sufficient drugs and medicine. On the question of the cost of prescriptions, as I have already told the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), the Hinchliffe Committee is considering this at the present time. Meanwhile, there is a voluntary price agreement of which the right hon. Lady may know, and there are, of course, the Prescriber's Notes, which are sent to all National Health Service doctors and should be helpful to them.