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Volume 986: debated on Monday 16 June 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if, in view of the savings to the National Health Service of £24 million per annum or £3,500 per annum in a three general practitioner practice with 6,000 patients that could be made by prescribing the generic chemical name of a drug rather than the brand name, he will seek powers to require general practitioners to prescribe drugs by their generic chemical name ; and if he will make a statement.

The way in which a doctor prescribes is a matter for each doctor to decide in the light of the individual circumstances of his patient. Under his terms of service he is obliged—where he considers that drug therapy is the proper course of action—to prescribe the appropriate form of medicine for his patient's treatment.The Department takes a number of measures to obtain value for money spent on prescribed medicines. Among these is the distribution to doctors regularly of cost comparison charts indicating the relative cost of alternative forms of drug treatment, both by generically named products and brand name versions. A completely revised edition of the British National Formulary, expected to be distributed to all prescribers in the NHS early next year, will also contain information about the relative prices of preparations.I hope to be able to have discussions soon with representatives of the medical profession on various aspects of prescribing, not limited to the one mentioned by my hon. Friend, in order to identify ways of encouraging effective prescribing.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage of prescriptions dispensed by doctors under the personally administered arrangements require a container ; and what is the percentage of prescriptions upon which a container fee is payable for these prescriptions.

Under paragraph 44.13 of the statement of fees and allowances governing the remuneration of general practitioners in the National Health Service, a prescribing general practitioner may personally administer to patients certain specified items—currently vaccines, anaesthetics, injections, diagnostic reagents and pessaries. For providing these items, payments are made to the general practitioner on the drug tariff basis which applies to most dispensing general practitioners. Under the drug tariff, the doctor receives a container allowance, currently 2·8p per prescription. In 1978–79 the Prescription Pricing Authority for England priced 305,376 such prescriptions from prescribing doctors; the total amount paid in container allowance fees paid to prescribing doctors was about £10,500. None of the items provided under paragraph 44.13 should need a container as the doctor will have bought them already packaged and will then personally administer them to the patient. The paragraph 44.13 arrangements are currently under consideration.