Generic substitution plans dropped

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

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’.

‘This is a sensible decision,’ he said.  ‘It is good to see that genuine concerns have been listened to.’

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

The proposed scheme had been widely criticised for being bureaucratic and costly in terms of GP and pharmacist time for the amount of money saved. Charities also warned that the plans could put patients at risk.

Lord Howe said that valuable savings to be made from the use of generic medicines where it is clinically appropriate.

‘However,’ he added, ‘we believe that national plans to enforce generic substitution in primary care are too prescriptive.’

The government had listened to concerns expressed in response to the consultation, he said.

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

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 more appropriate ways of supporting the use of generic medicines and, in the long term, value-based pricing will help to ensure we pay a price for drugs which better reflects their value.’

The government’s decision was also welcomed by charities. Epilepsy Action expressed ‘delight and relief’ at the announcement.

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