Sixty medicines are blacklisted

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 07 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1427

Sixty medicines look likely to join the blacklist of drugs that GPs cannot prescribe, but patient care is unlikely to be affected despite protests from patient groups and the pharmaceutical industry.

Over half of the products are for skin disorders, with most of the others for allergic disorders, anaemia, diarrhoea, and sleep problems. The vast majority are already available over the counter. Many manufacturers avoided having their drugs blacklisted by reducing their prices in line with similar drugs after receiving letters from the committee.

Dr Peter Fellows, a GP member of the Advisory Committee on NHS Drugs and chair of the General Medical Services Committee's prescribing subcommittee, said: “We haven't banned any drug to which there isn't an alternative, and I don't anticipate any problems with the list.”

Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners' prescribing task force, Dr Ross Taylor, agreed adding: “I can't really understand why it has taken so long. Initially the word was that a very radical list was going to be produced by the committee.”

The Department of Health announced in November 1992 which categories in the British National Formulary would come under the committee's scrutiny. One category was oral contraceptives, which provoked an outcry from doctors, family planning organisations, and women's groups. No oral contraceptive, however, is included in this list, and although Dr Fellows said that “eight to eleven” products are still being considered for blacklisting by the committee, he confirmed that none is a contraceptive.

Patient support groups such as the National Eczema Campaign and the Skincare Campaign have protested that patients need the widest range of products available because of problems with sensitisation. And the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said: “Doctors should be free to choose for patients the medicine that suits them rather than the cheapest.” Comments on the proposals should arrive at the Department of Health by 9 January 1997.—ADAM LEGGE, medical journalist, London

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