A row over the Scottish government's prescribing policy has resulted in GPs being prevented from giving patients drugs which could have saved the NHS up to £500,000 a year, it has been reported.
Managers at NHS Lanarkshire initially recommended the use of three brand-name medicines as they worked out cheaper than generic drugs, but were blocked by the government after ministers said the move could be a false economy in the long term.
The three drugs in question were Zapain (co-codamol), Efcortelan (a hydrocortisone cream), and Buspar (the anxiety drug busprione).
GPs are usually encouraged to prescribe generic – or nonbrand name – drugs because they are more cost-effective, but NHS Lanarkshire had advised family doctors to buy the branded versions of the three medicines because they were cheaper.
A Scottish government spokesman told The Herald newspaper: "Some companies introduce branded drugs just below the generic price to try to increase their share of the market. These drugs may therefore appear at first to be cost-effective; however, this is a false economy as prices of generic medicines are subject to regular market fluctuations – usually reductions in price.
"If NHS boards are tied into schemes where they use branded drugs they cannot benefit from potential generic price reductions."