Intended for healthcare professionals


Generic prescribing: time to regulate the market?

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 15 January 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:131

Price rises are a blow to nascent primary care groups

  1. T Walley (, professor of clinical pharmacology,
  2. Peter Burrill, honorary research fellow
  1. Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GF

    Successive governments have promoted the prescribing of drugs by generic rather than by proprietary name as a means of maintaining clinical quality while containing costs. The rate of generic prescribing is now 69%1 and is one of the measures used for assessing performance in primary care.2 The past year has seen a dramatic increase in the cost of generic medicines. As well as burdening the NHS with increased costs, these price rises threaten to undermine the development of primary care groups and suggest that the market for generic drugs can no longer remain unregulated.

    Drugs prescribed generically may be dispensed as either a branded product (about 7%) or a lower cost non-branded one (62%). The price paid by the NHS to community pharmacists and dispensing doctors for most generically dispensed drugs is set out in the Drug Tariff3 and based on prices charged by a range of suppliers. The market for generic medicines is not regulated, as it was thought that market forces would keep their prices down. In the past year there have been dramatic prices rises in many generic medicines and shortages of some important medicines, such as metformin. The reasons …

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