The amount of money the NHS spends on drugs has surged by nearly 30 per cent in the past six years.
The NHS drug bill rose by eight per cent to an eye-watering £16.8bn in the past two years alone, up from £13bn in 2011, according to the last figures available.
The NHS now spends 15 per cent of its £116bn budget on drugs – up from 11 per cent in 2011.
As more new and high-cost medicines become available, there have been warnings that urgent action is needed to control the bill if other areas of care are not to suffer.
The numbers are staggering and most people would probably shake their heads and call for ways to sharply reduce them... until they have a loved one whose life might just be saved or prolonged by the introduction of a new drug.
Our story today of Lisa Money and Louis Hadley, the parents of 11-month-old Tyler Hadley, highlights the problem and the agonising choices faced by the family.
Tyler has type one spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic condition which affects his muscles, limiting his movement. Most babies with his condition rarely survive beyond the age of two.
There is a drug, nusinersen, which might help. It’s available in America and Tyler is being treated with it in Paris where it is being trialled. He has had three injections so far and each one has cost the family £1,047.
They believe it will extend their son’s life, but it is not licensed in the UK yet, although it is in the early stages of appraisal. Of course, Tyler’s parents believe it should be licensed and made available on the NHS.
That is only natural, but it throws into perspective the whole issue of that colossal NHS drugs bill.
Perhaps the time has now come for the next government here, and those around the world, to put real pressure on pharmaceutical companies to slash the hideous mark-up placed on so many medicines and give parents like Lisa and Louis a glimmer of hope.