Byline: Andrew Picken Scottish Political Reporter
A HUGE rise in the number of Scots on anti-depressants has sent the NHS prescription bill soaring to more than [pounds sterling]1.3billion a year.
One in ten adult Scots is taking medication daily for depression as the country is gripped by a growing dependency on prescription drugs.
Alarming health service statistics show the number of prescriptions issued north of the Border topped 87million last year, a jump of nearly a fifth in five years.
The cost to the public purse for prescript ion drugs has increased by a staggering 16 per cent in the same period.
Fears have been raised that overstretched doctors are dishing out pills instead of spending the time to get to the root of patients' problems.
One of the biggest growth areas is anti-depressants, with the number of prescriptions issued for the illness rising four-fold since 1994.
The cost of dishing out prescriptions accounts for around ten per cent of the annual NHS budget and equates to around [pounds sterling]200 for every person in Scotland.
The push to give patients more drugs is most evident in hospitals, where pharmacy costs soared by 37 per cent in just five years to [pounds sterling]292million last year.
Time pressures and a 'throwaway' culture among medical staff is being blamed for the hike in money spent on drugs.
And the burden on the public purse will get worse next year when the SNP abolishes prescription charges entirely.
The move will cost NHS Scotland [pounds sterling]57million a year - a sum that could pay for 2,750 extra nurses - and will tip the amount spent on pharmacyissued prescriptions over [pounds sterling]1billion. Labour health spokesman Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, said: 'The rising cost of drugs to the NHS is very concerning.
'In the current economic circumstances I want to see a greater effort to reduce unnecessary costs so that every penny goes to support standards of patient care. …