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Pharmacists want to be able to swap GP-prescribed drugs for generics

Pharmacists should be able to change GP prescriptions to ‘therapeutically equivalent generics’ when dispensing drugs, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

This would enable pharmacies to earn more money, as they gain more profit from generics than branded generic drugs.

The BMA suggested it could also be a positive change for GPs who are bombarded with notifications about which version of a drug they should be prescribing based on cost.

The call follows joint discussions with the BMA, PSNC and Dispensing Doctors’ Association, who are actively lobbying the Government to review the reimbursements system for dispensing doctors and pharmacists.

Speaking at the annual local pharmaceutical committees (LPC) conference in Birmingham, the PSNC director of pharmacy funding Mike Dent told delegates that pharmacists should be able to give a ‘therapeutically equivalent generic’, instead of the branded version prescribed by the GP, in order for them to earn higher margins.

Mr Dent said: ‘You either tell the GPs they have to prescribe generically or you say to a pharmacy – regardless what’s written on the prescription – “you can give a therapeutically equivalent product”’.

BMA Wales chair Dr David Bailey, who is leading on the matter for the BMA, said: ‘It’s helpful because GPs get these messages flashing up on their screen all the time saying “can you change to this branded generic because it’s tuppence a month cheaper” and actually what that means is GPs end up turning off to the safety messages that are in the same notification system.’

He warned the current system ‘potentially means’ GPs are ‘missing safety information’ because they are ‘conditioned to ignore the pedantic nonsense’.

He said: ‘[It] basically saves tuppence a month for the health board or CCG, but actually costs twice as much a year down the line when the government has to allow for transactional costs in the reimbursement.’

He said having pharmacists make the call instead would be ‘easier for prescribing GPs, it’s easier for patients, it’s easier for contractors – whether they are dispensing pharmacist or doctors’

‘The only people who lose out in the short-term are the people who are trying to count the beans in the CCGs and health boards. The NHS as a whole gains,’ he added.

Earlier this year the Department of Health and Social Care was given ‘new powers’ to control the price of generic medicines, after an investigation found that price hikes led to CCGs spending an extra £315m on medicines in 2017/18.