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'The Types Of Medicine Your GP Can Prescribe'

You can ask your GP to prescribe any drug which has been passed by the Medicines Control Agency, although it is up to him or her to decide whether its use would be of value. In recent years there has been a trend towards prescribing generic drugs rather than brand name products, in an attempt to reduce the rate of increase of the huge NHS drugs bill. Almost half of all prescriptions are now written generically. Generic products are generally less expensive than brand name products but are no less effective.

Under the indicative prescribing scheme, all GPs will be told how much money they can spend on medicines for their patients. These are called indicative prescribing amounts. A GP can overspend his indicative amount in order to prescribe necessary medicines. Larger practices can now choose to have an overall practice budget with which to buy treatment for their patients ('fundholding practices'). The budget will have to pay for non-emergency operations, diagnostic tests, and drugs. Whether your GP is in a fund holding practice or whether he/she is governed by an indicative prescribing amount, he will certainly think more carefully about unnecessary prescribing. GPs will be less likely to prescribe palliative medicines - like cough, cold and indigestion remedies and you may find you have to buy them over the counter at the pharmacy.

With a prescription charge of 5.65 per item, it is possible to buy many medicines more cheaply without a prescription. Health Which publishes a booklet 'Cheaper than a prescription' which lists all the drugs which are cheaper than the prescription charge. Available on 0800 252100, price 2.99.

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