Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Medicine and the Media

Generic drugs: protest group was not quite what it seemed

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 17 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1514
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow, and Financial Times columnist
  1. margaretmccartney{at}

    Last month the Times published a letter from doctors and patients’ groups warning against generic drugs and supporting branded prescribing. But who was really behind the protest? Margaret McCartney investigates

    Generics are good for us. That’s the mantra that is taught to doctors again and again: they are cheaper for the NHS but just as effective for the patient. So it was surprising to find a letter in the Times recently, signed by several doctors, decrying generics and pleading for doctors’ choice to prescribe branded drugs to be paramount. The letter, titled “Patient wellbeing at risk from substituted generic medicines,” was also signed by patients’ groups such as the Cure Parkinson’s Trust and the British Liver Trust and carried the names of the media doctor Patricia Macnair, Stephen Kownacki, chairman of the Primary Care Dermatology Society, and Jean Mossman, former chief executive of Cancer BACUP (

    The letter was a response to the Department of Health’s current consultation on prescribing, which proposes an automatic generic substitution scheme (BMJ 2010;340:c135, 8 Jan, doi:10.1136/bmj.c135). The consultation aims to …

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