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Phase 4

Phase 4

Mar - May 2017

Save money on generic medicine

Strapline – Cost effective medicine

Hashtag - #costeffectivemedicine

Increasing generic prescribing has saved the NHS £7.1 billion since 1976 and allowed more than 490 million more items to be prescribed without an increase in total spending. Source: King's Fund

Norfolk and Waveney CCGs spent £167 million on 23 million prescription items between March 2015 and March 2016, with savings made on generic prescriptions freeing up NHS resources to pay for other treatments.

How does this happen?

In many cases, patients are loyal to expensive brands of medicine. Generics or non-branded medicines are equally as effective as the branded medicines available, and at a cost typically as much as 80% less than their branded counterparts. Many medications have two names because more than one version of the medicine is available. The brand name, is the name given to a medicine by the pharmaceutical company that makes it. This is also called the "proprietary name".The generic or scientific name is the term given to the active ingredient in the medicine which is decided by an expert committee and is understood internationally. This is also called the "non-proprietary name". For example, sildenafil is the generic name of a medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction (the inability to get an erection). Pfizer, the company that makes sildenafil, sells it under the brand name Viagra.

Brand names for medications

Pharmaceutical companies take out a patent (exclusive rights) for each new medicine they discover. This patent lasts for up to 20 years, during which time, the medicine is studied in clinical trials and then approved for sale by expert committees, such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

When the medicine becomes available, only the pharmaceutical company that discovered it, is able to sell it using their brand name. They can do this until the patent runs out.

Generic names for medications

After the patent runs out, other companies can produce their own version of the medicine. For example, ibuprofen is the generic name of a medicine used to treat pain. Some companies will sell ibuprofen as branded versions, such as Nurofen and Hedex. Other manufacturers, sell it under the generic name "ibuprofen".

Medicines sold under their generic name are usually cheaper, because the research and development costs are lower. However, they contain the same active ingredient as the equivalent branded medicines. Generic medicines also go through detailed safety and quality requirements.

Being prescribed generic medications

You may be prescribed a generic medicine instead of a branded medicine because:

Source – NHS Choices

How can the public help save money wasted on branded medicines?

Further guidance

In the UK there are strict quality controls before a product licence is granted for brand (trade) named or generic versions of medicines. This means that a generic or brand name version of the same medicine will be of the same quality, and have the same action.

A few medicines, however, should normally be prescribed by the specific brand. This is because there are differences in the amount you end up having in your body between the different brands. Your pharmacist will advise you.

Generic medicines can cost up to 80% less than branded versions for you and for the NHS

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