Products made by the brand Aveeno were prescribed almost 250,000 times in England in 2018, up from just 73,000 times in 2014, more than tripling the cost.
This is despite the NHS last year ‘banning’ doctors from prescribing products which could be bought in shops, including shampoos and shower gels.
As well as prescribing them against its own rules, the NHS has even been paying more for the Aveeno products than they cost in shops.
One type of body wash was recently on sale on the high street for more than £2 less than the health service pays for it.
The NHS has tripled its spending on Aveeno shampoos, which are advertised by Friends star Jennifer Aniston (pictured), over the past five years. The moisturisers pictured are not included in the £2million figures because doctors may be allowed to prescribe them in some circumstances
The NHS’s spend on Aveeno cosmetics rose from £595,000 in 2014 to £1.98million in 2018.
Doctors are still allowed to prescribe off-the-shelf brands if they think patients would benefit from them, but are limited to which conditions they can do it for.
Anti-dandruff shampoos and bath oils, for example, fall outside of what they’re supposed to prescribe, as well as remedies for coughs and colds, sore throats, minor sunburn, mouth ulcers or athlete’s foot.
Among the Aveeno products prescribed were bath oils, body washes, ‘soothing shampoo’, shea moisturiser, hand cream and daily moisturisers.
NHS SPENDING ON AVEENO HAS SOARED OVER FIVE YEARS
NHS figures for spending on prescriptions for Aveeno shampoos, body washes and cleansing oil show the costs have risen steadily since 2014.
2017 was the last year before the NHS announced its intention to ban doctors from prescribing many products which could be bought in shops, but the figure rose again in 2018.
2014: 73,341 prescriptions costing £595,000
2015: 112,841 prescriptions costing £924,000
2016: 156,116 prescriptions costing £1.27million
2017: 226,025 prescriptions costing £1.85million
2018: 237,135 prescriptions costing £1.98million
But the £2m figure doesn’t include the costs of moisturisers because doctors are allowed to prescribe those in certain circumstances.
One body wash, for which the NHS pays £8.80 per bottle, was on sale at Superdrug last week for £6.09 and at Boots for £6.39.
‘Splashing taxpayers’ cash on off-the-shelf toiletries, which could simply be bought from the local supermarket, simply won’t wash,’ said James Roberts, the TaxPayers’ Alliance’s political director.
‘Prescriptions come with a hefty price tag for the health service, at a time when patients want to see more pounds and pennies reaching front line services.’
Official figures yesterday showed NHS hospitals are still struggling to cope with huge numbers of patients and are in desperate need of thousands of new staff.
And critics are concerned that the billions of pounds of funding boosts promised by Theresa May and Boris Johnson still won’t be enough to get the health service back on its feet.
The NHS’s spend on non-medical toiletries last year totalled £3.2million, slightly down from £3.4m in 2017, before the prescribing ban.
Payments for Aveeno products now account for two thirds of the total spend on these cosmetic products.
There were also around 34,000 prescriptions for Neutrogena shampoos, costing £194,000, and 80 prescriptions for Colgate Total toothpaste, costing £189.
‘This looks very hard to justify,’ said Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, a former health minister.
Shampoos which can be bought in shops on the high street are not supposed to be prescribed by NHS doctors following an announcement last year (The shampoo pictured is an example of an Aveeno product and not necessarily one which was prescribed by the health service)
Aveeno products were prescribed 73,000 times by the NHS in 2014 at a cost of less than £600,000, but this more than tripled to more than 230,000 prescriptions and £2million in 2018
WHAT IS THE NHS SPENDING ITS MONEY ON?
If you think the NHS only dishes out prescriptions for diabetes drugs and cholesterol-busting statins, you’d be wrong.
GPs and other medics can write out scripts for anal plugs, vacuum pumps for erectile dysfunction and even hosiery, among other items.
The NHS figures showed £10.2million was spent on hosiery in 2018, followed by £3.2million on toiletries such as shampoo.
A further £2.8million went on vaginal moisturisers, £759,000 to anal plugs for faecal incontinence and £121,000 for cordials and soft drinks.
And the NHS spent £55,000 on homeopathic preparations – despite guidance to stop dishing it out by health chiefs in 2017.
Slings on prescription cost the health service £19.2million, while sun creams cost around £1.2million and vaccuum pumps for ED cost £1.7million.
It spent more than £50,000 on prescriptions for cocaine and ketamine – which are used in mouthwashes and as injected painkillers.
The statistics showed medicines based on cocaine cost the health service £28,934 and ketamine £22,479 in 2018.
Cocaine is part of mouthwash given out by doctors and ketamine is used as a high-strength painkiller or local anaesthetic.
Professor Roger Knaggs, a pharmaceutical expert at the University of Nottingham said: ‘Cocaine is a very old local anaesthetic and used occasionally in hospitals… it can be used as a mouthwash for oral inflammation’.
‘We need clear answers as to why this significant increase has occurred and why one brand seems to be getting so much tax-payers’ money.
‘There are so many pressing priorities in the NHS, it is vital that every penny is spent wisely.’
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘The NHS is one of the most efficient health services in the world and we have already announced plans to curb prescriptions on a host of products including bath oils, dandruff shampoo and paracetamol.’
And Johnson & Johnson, Aveeno’s parent company, added in a statement: ‘Johnson & Johnson is compliant with the relevant UK regulations and codes of practice that govern the promotion of products for prescription by NHS healthcare professionals.’
The Aveeno prescriptions were a drop in the ocean of the millions of pounds doctors racked up in costs for things which could be bought in shops.
Prescribing for paracetamol and aspirin – which can both be bought for pennies even in corner shops – remains high.
Paracetamol prescriptions fell from 20m to 18.5m between 2017 and 2018, while aspirin dropped from 24.8m to 23.5m.
Together they cost about £58million over the course of 2018.
And medics are still prescribing millions of pounds worth of brand-name remedies.
Almost £20million was spent on prescribing Gaviscon products, for example, which treat heartburn and indigestion but are easy to buy in shops.
Some £4.5million was spent on erectile dysfunction medicines like Viagra, even though the blue pill became available over-the-counter last year.
A further £2million and £1.3million was spent on prescribing diarrhoea medication Immodium and cold and hay fever remedy Benadryl, respectively.
And more than £40,000 was spent on cod liver oil tablets from brands including Seven Seas and even Tesco.
WHAT WAS THE NHS’S PRESCRIBING BAN?
The NHS last year announced it would ban doctors from prescribing products used to treat some conditions if they could be bought in shops without a prescription.
High street products such as specialist shampoos or moisturisers were – and still are – being given out on prescription to patients with eczema or dandruff.
These could be given out by doctors who thought their patients would benefit from them and may have been prescribed to people who doctors thought would struggle to go out and buy them for themselves.
Shop-bought moisturisers can still be prescribed in some circumstances but shampoos shouldn’t be. Under rules announced last year doctors should avoid prescribing over-the-counter products for the following conditions:
- Sore Throat
- Cold Sores
- Coughs and colds
- Cradle Cap (Seborrhoeic dermatitis)
- Infant Colic
- Mild Cystitis
- Contact Dermatitis
- Diarrhoea (Adults)
- Dry Eyes/Sore tired Eyes
- Excessive sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
- Head lice
- Indigestion and Heartburn
- Infrequent constipation
- Infrequent Migraine
- Insect bites and stings
- Mild Dry Skin/Sunburn/Acne
- Hay fever/Allergic Rhinitis
- Minor burns and scalds
- Minor pain/discomfort
- Mouth ulcers
- Nappy Rash
- Oral Thrush
- Prevention of dental decay
- Ringworm/Athlete’s foot
- Teething/Mild toothache
- Travel Sickness
- Warts and Verrucae