Prescribing generic medicines policy
Northend Medical Centre where ever possible will always prescribe medicine using their generic names, rather than the brand name, unless there are special circumstances as stated below. NHS GPs are encouraged to prescribe medicines by their generic name. This is because generic medicines are usually as effective as the branded versions, but can cost up to 80% less. The National Health Service is paid for by the taxes you pay. The NHS has a duty to use that money wisely and effectively – to make sure we provide the most care for the best value. The NHS uses the term “cost effectiveness”. That doesn’t mean cheap is always best. An expensive drug that works is more cost effective than a cheap one that doesn’t. But if two drugs do the same thing the cheaper one is more cost effective, i.e. a better buy. This frees up NHS resources to pay for other treatments. It also gives the pharmacist the widest choice of products to dispense. This can be important, particularly if there is a shortage of a particular product.
Switching to a generic medicine
If your prescriber changes your regular prescription from a branded medicine to a generic version, they will tell you about the change before you collect your prescription. This is to ensure you understand that although your medicine may have a different name, it will still contain the same active ingredient. Your pharmacist can also be a helpful source of information and advice when this happens. When you pick up your prescription, the medicine may look different and there will be a different name on the label. However, it will contain the same active ingredient as the medicine you used before.
Generic medicines with different activity
In rare cases, it is important for a patient to stay on the branded medicine previously prescribed for them, rather than changing to a generic medicine. In such cases, the branded medicine is the most suitable product. Some examples of when you should keep taking your brand of prescribed medicine, (NOT GENERIC) include:
- Epilepsy medicines – these should be treated with care because different versions may have slight differences in the way they are absorbed, which can cause big differences in their effect. For example, prescribers may decide the branded version of lamotrigine (Lamictal) is more suitable than the generic version.
- Modified-release preparations of medicines – such as modified-release versions of theophylline, nifedipine, diltiazem and verapamil. A branded version may sometimes be a better option than the generic equivalent, as they can be absorbed differently.
- Biological medicines – these complex medicines are derived from proteins and other substances produced by the body. Copies of biological medicines, called biosimilars, can never be exactly the same so shouldn't be automatically used as substitutes. Doctors should always reference the brand name so the manufacturer and batch could be identified if there were any problems with the medicine.
- Ciclosporin – a medicine that suppresses the immune system (the body's natural defence system). Different branded versions may cause different levels of ciclosporin in your blood.
- Mesalazine – which is used to treat ulcerative colitis (a long-term condition that affects the colon). The way that mesalazine is absorbed varies between different brands.
- Lithium – this treats a number of mental health conditions. Different brands vary widely in terms of how much of the medicine is absorbed and becomes active.
Beclometasone dipropionate CFC-free inhalers to treat asthma – there are two inhalers that contain the same active substance (beclometasone dipropionate), but one is much stronger