Feature Data Briefing

The rise and rise of generic prescribing

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5507 (Published 20 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5507
  1. John Appleby, chief economist, King’s Fund, London
  1. j.appleby{at}kingsfund.org.uk

Generic prescribing has made great savings for the NHS, but John Appleby warns that reproducing this success is not likely to provide a quick fix for current financial woes

Over the past 30 years there has been a remarkable change in the prescribing patterns of general practitioners. With the NHS facing a further five years of squeezed funding, and evidence of widespread overspending in the first quarter of this year as NHS providers attempt to meet growing demands,1 2 could the switch GPs have made to generic prescribing hold lessons for the productivity challenge the NHS faces?

Since the mid-1970s spending on primary care prescribing in the English NHS has grown fourfold in real terms—to £8.1bn in 2014-15 (fig 1). This partly reflects the growth in the volume of prescribed items overall—from 285 million in 1976 to just over 1 billion in 2014-15. …

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