At least 30 per cent of primary care trusts are defying the Department of Health to set up discount deals with pharmaceutical companies, an HSJ investigation has found.

Primary care rebate schemes offer commissioners money back on certain medicines while protecting the drug company’s published list price in the UK.

The list price influences the pricing of drugs in markets outside the UK so it would be difficult for companies to offer NHS-wide discounts without impacting on their international profitability.

Data obtained by HSJ using the Freedom of Information Act found 30 per cent of PCTs had at least one scheme in place, with savings ranging from £328 to more than £100,000 a year per scheme.

A number of senior sources working in the NHS and with the industry told HSJ they expected the number of schemes to increase.

A DH spokeswoman said the government did not encourage the use of such schemes.

She added: “Making sure patients are given the most appropriate care and treatment for their individual needs is the priority. It is important the local NHS understands the potential such schemes have to distort these decisions.”