UK Government

Department of Health: Proposals to Dispense more Generic Medicines

Press Release   •   Jan 05, 2010 11:16 GMT

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 published today 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 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 benefitting 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.

Notes to editors

  • Further details, including the consultation document, The proposals to implement ‘Generic Substitution’ in primary care, further to the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) 2009, and how to respond, can be found on the Department’s website:
  • www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/index.htm

    There will be consultation events, and details of these will be published on the NHS Primary Care Commissioning website: www.pcc.nhs.uk/events.

  • A ‘generically equivalent’ medicine essentially means that the drug is the same as that in the equivalent branded product.
  • The Department of Health committed to the introduction of generic medicine substitution in primary care in the NHS, subject to discussion with affected parties, in the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme 2009.
  • Substitution will not be allowed where it is not safe to do so. The criteria for allowing branded medicines to be substituted with generic medicines would take into account any general clinical or patient safety concerns in comparison with different manufacturers’ products.
  • Subject to the outcome of this consultation, there will be a notice period  before implementation, to enable preparation. Lead in time for practical implementation will depend on the option taken forward.
  • For more information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.
  • Contacts

    NDS Enquiries
    Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department
    ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk