The Department of Health's latest cost-cutting measure is to ask GPs to reduce the amount of medicines they prescribe, the Daily Telegraph has reported.
A total of 15 common drugs on which savings could be made have been listed in a report created for GPs, PCTs and new GPs' commissioning consortia.
Broad spectrum antibiotics for infections, statins for high cholesterol, sleeping tablets and obesity drugs, as well as other drugs commonly prescribed on the NHS, are included on the list.
Under the guidance, cheaper alternatives should be prescribed first, reserving more expensive drugs for severe cases. The drugs should be prescribed for the shortest possible time and patients should be taken off them after three months should the patient's response not be considered "adequate".
However, limiting the use of long-acting insulin in diabetics is controversial, whereas not using antipsychotics in dementia patients will be welcomed.
No one should be denied drugs because of finances, doctors said, adding that patients' needs are paramount.
The interim list of 15 drugs has been issued "for early consideration" and it will be followed by a fuller report later in the year, according to the National Prescribing Centre. The guidance provides "real opportunities for maintaining or improving quality and enhancing value for money", it said.
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"Did they do any research at all? Using cheaper drugs for only as long as necessary only if effective is surely standard practice. What should be taken off script is stuff like paracetamol. It is so cheap otc yet many patients especially parents still think it is their 'right' to have it on script. If half as many would take more responsibillity for their own health as have rights the demands on NHS would fall dramatically" – Name and address withheld