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Views And Reviews

Minister wants more generic prescribing

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 26 February 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:600
  1. L Beecham

    Appearing before the Commons health committee last week, health minister Dr Brian Mawhinney said that although the BMA had agreed in principle to generic substitution as far back as 1983 it had not been possible to make progress. General practitioners now recognised that changes were taking place. “They have a greater degree of confidence in the quality of generic drugs and have had the opportunity of seeing them used and to be reassured,” he said. The proportion of generic drugs precribed by doctors is now about 45%, but the potential is 65%. There are currently no generic substitutes for the remaining one third of drugs.

    The minister will open discussions with the General Medical Services Committee and pharmacists to see if they could find a way forward which was broadly acceptable to everyone.

    A spokesman for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said the organisation was “absolutely livid” at Dr Mawhinney's announcement, of which it had no prior notice. He said generic substitution would have a devastating effect on the industry and deprive British companies of sales.

    In the week when the cost of NHS prescriptions was increased by 50p to pounds sterling4.75 an item from April, Dr Mawhinney clashed with Conservative MPs on the committee. They argued that the charge now exceeded the cost of many drugs and could be lower if there were fewer exemptions. The minister surprised MPs by saying that although the charge was against the provision of medicines, patients were not paying for the drugs but were making a contribution to the NHS according to what the government of the day thought was proper.

    He also …

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