DoH U-turn over plans to let pharmacists switch drugs

Plans to allow pharmacists in England to switch prescriptions for branded drugs to generic alternatives have been abandoned.

Dr Beeby: ‘This is a sensible decision. It is good to see that genuine concerns have been listened to’ (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)

Health minister Lord Howe said the national plans to enforce generic substitution were 'too prescriptive'.

GPC prescribing lead Dr Bill Beeby said the decision was 'a victory for common sense'. He added: 'This is a sensible decision. It is good to see that genuine concerns have been listened to.'

The BMA would continue to work with the DoH to see how the NHS can prescribe more efficiently, which would inevitably mean prescribing more generic drugs, he said.

The scheme had been criticised as bureaucratic and time consuming for the amount of money saved. Charities warned the plans could put patients at risk. Lord Howe said there were valuable savings to be made from using generic medicines where clinically appropriate.

'However, we believe national plans to enforce generic substitution in primary care are too prescriptive,' he said. The DoH had listened to concerns expressed in response to the consultation, he added.

'It is also not clear whether the proposals would have provided substantial benefit to the NHS, compared with the efforts of frontline staff to implement them. This is why we have decided not to progress with national implementation,' he said.

Lowe Howe said the government wanted patients to have the drugs their doctors recommend at the best price for the taxpayer. 'Patients should be reassured that we are looking at better ways of supporting the use of generic medicines and, in the long term, value-based pricing will help ensure we pay a price for drugs which better reflects their value.'

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