Prescribing Policies - the background to our local policies

Published 19 April 2017

Medicines that can be purchased

It is estimated that the Vale of York spends approximately £½million on medications that can be purchased from either Community Pharmacies or from supermarkets without the need for a prescription from your doctor.

Our Policy on Medicines that can be purchased outlines the circumstances in which it may be more appropriate for a patient to seek advice from a Community Pharmacist and buy their medicines without the need for a prescription.

Brand medicine prescribing

The names of medicines can often be confusing as the same medicine can sometimes be called different things. Many medicines have two names:

The brand name This is given to a medicine by the pharmaceutical company it is developed by.

For example, atorvastatin is the generic name of a medicine used to treat high cholesterol.

However, the company that makes atorvastatin, Pfizer, sells it under the brand name Lipitor®.

The generic name Named for the active ingredient of the medicine, which is decided by an expert committee.

Both medicines have the same clinical effect, but each separate manufacturer can give it a different name. It is similar to buying branded goods or a supermarket's own label – both products do the same job, but the supermarket's own version is usually more cost-effective.

Unnecessary prescribing of branded medicines can cost the NHS up to 26 times the cost of the equivalent generic products. Some examples include:

Branded item Generic item
Commonly prescribed medications for high cholesterol Lipitor® costs £24.64  Atorvastatin 20mg tablets £1.09
Commonly prescribed medication to treat indigestion Losec® costs £13.92  Omeprazole costs 91p
Commonly prescribed medication to treat migraines Imigran® costs £31.85  Sumatriptan 100mg costs £1.22
Commonly prescribed antiplatelet drug to prevent blood clots  Plavix® costs £35.31  Clopidogrel 75mg costs £1.54

It is estimated that Vale of York spends £150,000 on unnecessary brand name prescribing, medications that patients request to be prescribed as brand name but have no clinical reason for requesting a branded medicine.

There are circumstances when it is clinically necessary to prescribe by brand name, and these are outlined in the policy. The policy also outlines when it is and is not appropriate to prescribe a medicine by a brand name and explains the process that prescribers should follow when a patient wants a branded product with no clinical need for a branded product.

Branded generic medicine prescribing

The names of medicines can often be confusing, as the same medicine can sometimes be called different things. Many medicines have two names:

Brand name – this is given to a medicine by the pharmaceutical company it is developed by.

Generic name – named for the active ingredient of the medicine, which is decided by an expert committee.

There are also branded-generic medicines. 

A branded generic 

The brand name given to a drug that is bioequivalent to the innovator (original) brand, but once the original brand has come ‘off patent’ it is marketed under another company brand name, not the generic name.


Up to £1 million could be saved if branded-generics were used appropriately. This policy outlines when it is appropriate for a prescriber to prescribe a medication as a branded-generic product.Certain medicines should be prescribed by a branded name. These are outlined in the Branded medicine prescribing policy. Using certain branded-generic medications represents significant cost-savings for the Vale of York.