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MeReC Bulletin - Generic prescribing in primary care

The National Prescribing Centre (NPC) has published a MeReC Bulletin (PDF) that reviews the prescribing of generic medicines in primary care.

This review describes the nature of branded and generic medicines and the regulatory process that is required for a generic medicine to be granted a product license. "Branded Generics" are also discussed; these are generic medicines which are given a brand name and generally priced below the Drug Tariff price.

It is recognised that some medications should rightly be prescribed by the branded name, for example to ensure stable blood levels of drugs with a narrow therapeutic index. However, it is also noted that there is no official list of medicines that should not be prescribed generically. Readers are directed to a document developed by the Health and Social Care Board of Northern Ireland that is an excellent starting resource.

Generic substitution has been proposed as a method to reduce NHS drug costs but these plans have been suspended. However, the Department of Health still supports generic prescribing especially when 5% of medicines were prescribed by brand name in 2008 when a generic alternative was available.

Action: Clinicians should already be aware of the potential for cost savings from using generic medicines. This review is a useful reminder that there are still savings to be made in this area.