Increase in free prescriptions20th August 2008
Prescriptions issued in Wales have risen significantly during the first year of free prescriptions.
Official figures have revealed they rose by 2.9m, or by 5% from 59.1m in 2006/7 to 62m in 2007/8.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, said the rise indicated that there was more preventive work being carried out and more cancer drugs being prescribed.
The £3 prescription charge in Wales was abolished in April last year by the assembly government.
Dr Jewell said: "We know that in Wales we have more people with long term illnesses than England.
"These figures reflect the fact that more preventative work is being undertaken, with GPs prescribing medicines which are helping people manage their chronic conditions and keeping them out of hospital, reducing the cost and pressure on the NHS.
"We are also issuing more medicines used to treat cancers, as cancer therapy has improved to a point where, for a number of patients, it is now a chronic condition, plus GPs are helping more patients with diabetes manage their condition under the new enhanced contract."
He said the new cost per prescription was down from £9.80 to £9.42.
Figures in the National Statistics on GP prescribing reveal the net cost of the prescribed items was £584m, the equivalent to £188.90 per head.
However, the Welsh Liberal Democrats say the figure vindicated their concerns that "giving free prescriptions for all would be disastrous" while the Tories said the figures showed people in Wales were "becoming increasingly reliant on prescribed medicine."
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