Doctors in England spent £87.6 million last year on paracetamol tablets which can be bought in shops for 20 times cheaper.

Almost 23 million prescriptions for the painkillers, which were worth £3.83 each, were written by doctors. The number of tablets per prescription is not given, but on the high street 16 tablets can cost under 20p. The £87.6 million spend could buy 461 million shop packs, which is enough for eight boxes for every Briton.

Figures show a similar trend for ibuprofen prescriptions. Government figures from 2015 show that 7.3 million prescriptions for ibuprofen were written, with a bill for £27 million. This works out as £3.74 per pack, compared to 25p a box from high street shops.

Some areas are trying to cut the bills. In North Norfolk, GPs are told not to prescribe painkillers for colds and flu. East Yorkshire has introduced a ‘buy your own’ policy for painkillers, following a survey showing patient support.

Harry Davis, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said, “When budgets are tight there can be no justification for paying out on items priced at over twenty times the supermarket value.

“Of course some cases will be warranted but health bosses need to make sure that no one is gaming the system and ensure that every penny of taxpayers’ money spent is justified.”

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