Correspondence seen by GP shows that NHS prescribing leads have repeatedly warned the government that the current list's obsolescence increases NHS expense and workload.
Findings from a GP survey this week showed that two thirds of GPs think the NHS should stop providing free prescriptions for drugs available OTC.
To block prescribing of some drugs at NHS expense, the DH would need to add them to the list of 'drugs, medicines and services not to be ordered under a GMS contract'. This blacklist is included in the GMS contract but has not been updated since 1985.
Correspondence obtained by GP under the Freedom of Information Act shows the DH has been repeatedly warned about costs arising from the failure to update the list.
The inclusion of particular strengths of some medicines leads to high spending on special-order products, NHS prescribing advisers have said. An out-of-date list of branded generic medicines also destabilises NHS finances, a PCT director of medicines management has warned.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has told the DH that the blacklist should be abolished because it is 'complex and confusing' and leads to 'unnecessary workload and cost for prescribers and pharmacies'.
But DH head of medicines Jeannette Howe said: 'A proposal to restrict the availability of branded products would not only be highly controversial, but difficult to justify under the criteria previously notified to the EC.'
Dr Anita Sharma, a GP in Manchester on Oldham's medicines management committee, said there needs to be an 'honest debate' about NHS funding of medicines.
'The time has come to give our patients a clear message that, while the taxpayer will always fund most healthcare, with people living longer the taxpayer cannot fund everything,' she said.