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Government abandons generic substitution scheme

By Nigel Praities

The Government has decided not to proceed with proposals for automatic substitution of generic medicines by pharmacists after widespread opposition from patient groups and GPs.

The announcement - in a document released today - says the consultation on plans for pharmacists to overrule GP prescriptions for branded products and replace them with cheaper alternatives found they could pose a threat to patient safety and the economic benefits were 'inconclusive'.

However the document added that the Government would seek to look at alternative ways to boost generic prescribing in the NHS.

The proposals on generic subsitution - introduced as part of an agreement on NHS drug prices with pharmaceutical companies by the previous government - were controversial, with both pharmacy and BMA leaders raising concerns over their complexity and the impact on patients.

The Department of Health statement says: 'In the light of the public consultation findings, the DH will not be progressing any further the implementation of generic substitution. Instead the DH will be looking at further ways to support the use of generic medicines in a way that is acceptable to patients, recognising that there are still some savings that can potentially be delivered in this area.'