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Proposals to dispense more generic medicines

Proposals that would allow the dispensing of generic medicines instead of branded medicines in primary care, resulting in long-term savings for the NHS, were set out today by the Department of Health.

A consultation outlining a range of proposals to allow generic medicines to be dispensed instead of branded medicines includes options for:

  • Keeping the current situation;
  • Allowing branded products to be substituted with generic equivalents but having a list of products exempt from the scheme; or
  • Allowing branded products to be substituted with generic equivalents but only applying this to a selected group of products.

These proposals would mean that, in some cases, a patient's medicine might look slightly different to the one they were previously used to. However, the drug itself would be the same.

Doctors are free to prescribe branded or generic medicines, which pharmacists dispense to patients.

Under the two options exploring flexibility in generic medicine substitution, health professionals prescribing medicines would be able to stipulate on a prescription form where they do not think it appropriate for medicines to be substituted with the generic version.

Prescribers would take into account an individual patient's medical history and patients can therefore continue to receive a specific manufacturer's product where their treating clinician judges that this is necessary to meet clinical need.

Pharmacists will be able to dispense generic medicines instead of branded products unless otherwise stated on the prescription form.

Health Minister Mike O'Brien said:

"We want to make sure that patients and taxpayers are getting the best medicines at the best price. Where clinically appropriate, it is only sensible to allow more expensive branded products to be substituted with the same generic medicines which are just as effective as the branded version.

"Patient safety is always our top priority. With valuable input from stakeholders, this consultation includes options that ensure patient safety by limiting generic medicine substitution as appropriate and always giving prescribers the flexibility of opting out so that they can continue to tailor treatment to an individual patient's clinical need according to their medical history.

"Introducing generic medicine substitution will deliver value for money and savings to the NHS which will go directly back into health services, ultimately benefiting patients and improving the care they receive."

The 12-week consultation will close on 30 March 2010 and views on the proposals are welcome from the public, patients, the NHS and stakeholders.

Department of Health

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"The prescription for non-generic medicine would need to be very clear so mistakes are not made. On the whole I think most nurse prescribers prescribe responsibly. They are very budget conscious" - Jane Thomas, Gloucestershire