UK scraps generic substitution plans

Home/Policies & Legislation | Posted 08/11/2010 post-comment0 Post your comment

The UK government has announced that it will not progress with plans to automatically substitute medications with generic drugs in primary care. Health Minister Lord Howe announced the decision on 14 October 2010, following a public consultation, which showed that many people thought it posed a risk to the safety of patients and could create more work for National Health Service (NHS) staff.


Following a full public consultation, the government will no longer implement proposals that would have allowed dispensers to replace branded drugs for generic versions when dispensing prescriptions.

The proposed scheme had been widely criticised for being too bureaucratic and costly in terms of both doctors’ and pharmacists’ time for the amount of money saved. Charities had also warned that the plans could put patients at risk and were now delighted and relieved at the decision.

The Department of Health (DoH) acknowledged that there are still savings to be made by increasing use of generic medicines and is instead building on existing initiatives as well as looking at other ways of supporting the use of generic medicines where it is appropriate and safe and does not add extra burdens for healthcare professionals.

Lord Howe said “we know that there are valuable savings to be made from the use of generic medicines where it is clinically appropriate. However, we believe that national plans to enforce generic substitution in primary care are too prescriptive”.

Director-General of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Dr Richard Barker, agreed that “generic medicines play a vital role in the NHS” however added that “UK needs the right mix of generic and branded medicines”. He went on to say that “UK currently ranks amongst the lowest in Europe in the uptake of innovative medicines, despite having amongst the lowest prices”.

Nearly 85% of prescriptions written for patients are already for generics, mainly due to the fact that doctors in UK are trained to prescribe by international non-proprietary name. Doctors maintain the right to prescribe either branded or generic medicines for their patients.

The generics industry is not pleased with the decision. British Generic Manufacturers Association Director, Mr Warwick Smith, expressed frustration “at the remaining small amount of brand prescribing when there is no clinical reason not to use the equivalent but much more cost-effective generic”. Mr Smith added that we will continue to work with the DoH to safeguard and maximise the generic contribution to the NHS”.

Generic competition already saves the NHS GBP 8.6 billions per year, delivering lower costs and greater accessibility to treatments for patients.


Department of Health (DoH). No Plans to Implement Generic Substitution of Medicines. 14 October 2010

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (APBI). The right mix of branded medicines and generics vital for cost-effective care says ABPI. 14 October 2010

British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA). BGMA Comments on generic substitution decision. 14 October 2010

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