Page last updated at 09:13 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 10:13 UK

GPs 'pressured over cheap drugs'

Local health bosses have been encouraging GPs to use cheaper drugs

GPs feel under too much pressure to use cheaper drugs as part of a cost-cutting drive by NHS bosses, a poll shows.

Nearly all NHS trusts in England have set up schemes to get GPs to use generic versions of drugs which are cheaper than branded alternatives.

But a poll of 401 GPs by Pulse magazine found two thirds felt under pressure and a third said this had started interfering with care.

But the government said doctors were free to use their clinical judgement.

There has been a huge focus on using cheaper alternative to branded drugs recently as the NHS drugs bill doubled in the past decade to over 8bn a year.

Cost-effective prescribing releases resources for more patients to receive treatment
Department of Health spokesman

The National Audit Office has estimated that 200m a year could be saved without affecting patient care by GPs prescribing lower cost but equally effective generic treatments.

Branded drugs tend to be more expensive, modern drugs still covered by patents as opposed to generic medications that are no longer under patent and can be produced by any drugs company.

The government has encouraged local health bosses working for primary care trusts to get GPs to rely on generic drugs where it is appropriate.

As well as quizzing GPs, Pulse asked PCTs what they were doing to get doctors to use cheaper drugs.

Nearly all said they had schemes in place ranging from simple awareness raising campaigns to bonuses for hitting targets.

Programmes to increase generic statin prescriptions remained the most popular, but others to target blood pressure drugs ACE inhibitors, antihistamines and antiplatelet drugs to prevent blood clots have also become more common in the last year.


Dr Richard Vautrey, of the British Medical Association, said GPs felt caught between the "devil and the deep blue sea" over the issue.

"There is certainly logic in trying to save the NHS money, but the pressure is becoming intense."

But a Department of Health spokesman said: "Cost-effective prescribing releases resources for more patients to receive treatment.

"However, we expect GPs to exercise their clinical judgment to ensure that their patients are prescribed the most suitable product available.

"There is nothing to prevent branded prescribing if a doctor considers it in the patient's best interests to receive a specific product."

GPs 'wasting millions' on drugs
18 May 07 |  Health

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