People in deprived areas prescribed 50% more medicine
People in deprived areas are being prescribed around 50 per cent more medicines than their wealthier neighbours in Northern Ireland.
Details of prescriptions issued by doctors, high street pharmacists and `appliance suppliers' in 2019/20 are contained in the first General Pharmaceutical Service Statistics for the region.
It reveals that patients in the least deprived areas are being prescribed medicines with average ingredients costing almost 20 per cent more than other areas.
There are 531 community pharmacies in the north - just one less than the previous year and it estimates that more than 99 per cent of the population live within five miles of one and at least 72 per cent within a mile.
There was an almost three per cent rise in the number of items dispensed to 43.1 million in 2019/20 compared with the previous year as part of an upward trend which has seen a seven per cent rise in the last five years.
The total ingredient cost of prescription items has risen by more than five per cent to £444.1 million.
Northern Ireland has the highest ingredient cost per person in the UK at almost £230 per year compared to the lowest, England, which is 42 per cent lower at £161.
Malignant disease and immunosuppression medication is the most expensive specified ingredient cost at 66.98 per item.
Women receive almost 57 per cent of dispensed items, with people aged between 45-64 age getting more than 30 per cent of total prescriptions.
Around one in four items dispensed relate to the central nervous system, with 10,633,765 prescriptions costing £92,828,930 "before discount".
The next highest medicines are for the cardiovascular system which drew 9,616,051 prescriptions at a cost before discount of £58,014,425.
It is the first year that separate reports have been released for each of the main Family Practitioner Services service areas, which is responsible for annual payments of more than £870 million to GP practices, dentists, opticians and community pharmacists on behalf of the Health and Social Care Board.