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15 Oct 2002 : Column 800W—continued


Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average amount paid to Her Majesty's Government from the prescription charge was for each of the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement. [73714]

Mr. Lammy: Data for 2000–01 indicate that on average each person who was liable to pay prescription charges, excluding those who held a pre-payment certificate, paid for around three prescription items.

Prescription charges collected in England for each of the last ten years are shown in the table.

YearPrescription ChargeTotal Collected (including PPC sales) #m

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what clinical benefits are expected from the electronic transfer of prescriptions programme; [73326]

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Mr. Lammy: The electronic transmission of prescriptions between general practitioner practices and community pharmacists is just one element of a wider programme to modernise pharmacy services and the issue of prescriptions. The aim is to implement a new national prescriptions service that supports improved information on individuals' past and current medication, the move from paper based prescriptions with handwriting to secure electronic prescriptions with digital or graphical text and better decision support with integrated access to online drug dictionaries. There will be many building blocks that make up the whole national prescriptions service and at an infrastructure level the electronic transfer of prescriptions and prescription messaging together with connections and computers for pharmacists will be essential.

The benefits of a national prescriptions service are then considerable. They will include:

safer prescribing to save lives and reduce harm by automatic checks on drug interactions and dosage, and less errors arising from illegible or incomplete prescriptions

a more convenient service for patients with easier and faster repeat prescriptions and choice over where they would like to collect their prescriptions

better medicines management and the dramatic reduction of fraud and loss of money that can be put into patient care.

A business case is being prepared for the national prescriptions service and its key components. This will identify, and provide more detail for, the full range of patient, clinical and efficiency benefits to be realised. The outline business case should be completed by January 2003.

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to review the prescription charging system. [74198]

Mr. Lammy: We have no current plans to review the prescription charging arrangements.


Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what studies his Department has commissioned on the impact of mercury in vaccines and its effect upon children; and if he will make a statement. [73787]

Ms Blears: The Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) has recently reviewed the currently available data relating to possible neurotoxicity of thiomersal (a mercury-containing compound) in vaccines and advised that there is no evidence of harm caused by doses of thiomersal in vaccines, except for sensitisation reactions. The CSM concluded that the risk: benefit balance of thiomersal-containing vaccines remains overwhelmingly positive.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) in the United States also published a detailed review of the evidence relating to possible neurotoxicity of thiomersal in vaccines in October 2001. The IOM review also concluded that the evidence did not support a causal association between thiomersal contained in vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders. These findings were consistent with the CSM conclusions.

We are aware of two studies in the United Kingdom looking at the relationship between mercury in vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders in children. One of

15 Oct 2002 : Column 802W

these studies is funded by the Department and uses the Avon longitudinal study of pregnancy and childhood. The other study is using the general practice research database and is funded jointly by WHO and PHLS, which receives its funding from the Department. Neither of these studies supports an association between thiomersal exposure through the UK programme and neurodevelopmental disorders in children. The results of these studies have been made available to the Department and a summary of the findings is available in a Report to The US Congress which will be placed in the Library.


Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the four projects that are directly related to generating and testing new vaccine candidates and make a statement on the Government's involvement in each. [73732]

Ms Blears: Both the national institute for biological standards and control and public health laboratory service receive funding from government, some of which is spent on research and may be related to new vaccine work. They also receive funding/grants from other external sources, which includes help with research and development on vaccine activity.

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the contracts to manufacture vaccines awarded to Powderject by his Department over the past two years, stating in each case what vaccines were to be supplied, when the order was placed, what the value of each contract was, where each vaccine was to be manufactured and whether the order was put out to a full competitive tender. [74235]

Mr. Hutton: In the past two years, the following contracts have been awarded to Powderject:

VaccineDate contract awardedSite of manufacture
BCG & PPD10 March 2001UK
Influenza6 August 2001UK
Smallpox11 April 2002Germany

All were put out to normal competitive tender except for smallpox, which was not subject to the normal competitive tendering process on the grounds of protection of the basic interests of the security of the UK.

We do not disclose the value and quantity of the contracts, as this is commercially confidential.

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which company was awarded the contract to produce anti-tuberculosis vaccines for his Department last March; how much the value of that contract came to; and whether the cost represented a significant increase on previous contracts to manufacture similar vaccines. [74234]

Ms Blears: PowderJect were awarded a two-year contract for the supply of BCG vaccine in March 2001. Information surrounding the value of individual contracts is commercially confidential and is not disclosed.

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Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what preparations his Department has made with respect to purchasing further doses of smallpox vaccine, subsequent to the contract awarded to Powderject. [74233]

Mr. Hutton: Our longer term requirements for licensed Lister strain smallpox vaccine are currently under consideration

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what role Impfstoffwerke Dessau Tornau is to play in the manufacture of the smallpox vaccine which will be supplied to the Government by Powderject. [74232]

Mr. Hutton: Impfstoffwerke Dessau Tornau GmbH (IDT) is the subcontracting manufacturer of the new smallpox vaccine for Bavarian Nordic, with whom PowderJect have an exclusive agreement for the supply of smallpox vaccine.

Growth Hormone Deficiency

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions he has had with (a) the Pituitary Foundation, (b) the Royal College of Physicians and (c) the Society for Endocrinology on the subject of growth hormone deficiency. [73352]

Jacqui Smith: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has had no discussions with the Pituitary Foundation, The Royal College of Physicians or the Society for Endocrinology on the subject of growth hormone deficiency.

In May the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended to the National Health Service in England and Wales that human growth hormone (somatropin) is both a clinically and cost effective way to treat children with growth hormone (GH) deficiency. A decision on adult growth hormone deficiency is eexpected from NICE shortly.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the average cost of treatment for individuals suffering from growth hormone deficiency in the last year for which figures are available. [73353]

Jacqui Smith: The cost of treatment depends on the dose, which is determined by the weight and size of the patient, as well as the individual growth hormone reserve. The average annual cost of growth hormone treatment, based on March 2002 figures, is around #3350 per patient.

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