Indigestion drugs 'overprescribed'BMJ reports £100 million of NHS money wasted

04 January 2008

Pills in a cup

The NHS is wasting at least £100 million a year on drugs for indigestion, doctors said today.

Proton pump inhibitors, which stop stomach acid rising up to the mouth, are being overprescribed. As many as 70% of patients who take these drugs show none of the signs to indicate that the drug will help them.

The authors of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) editorial, Dr Ian Forgacs, a consultant physician, and Aathavan Loganayagam, a specialist registrar, argue that other, less expensive and effective drugs could be prescribed to many patients.

Indigestion

Prescriptions for the drugs have outstripped those for all other acid-inhibiting drugs and now account for more than 90% of the NHS drug budget for treating indigestion, they said. They added that the reasons behind the rise in prescriptions for these drugs are not ‘obvious’.

The drugs had been ‘a tremendous therapeutic advance’ and have transformed the lives of some patients but, they are clearly being overused, said the doctors from the Department of Gastroenterology at King's College Hospital, London, in the BMJ.

The doctors added that there was evidence that taking proton pump inhibitors trebles the risk of the Clostridium difficile infection.