Proposal for savings on NHS drug bill rejected

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Indy Politics
Virginia Bottomley has over-ruled her health minister Dr Brian Mawhinney and kicked out proposals to make it much easier for doctors to prescribe non-brand name drugs, writes Nicholas Timmins.

She has done so despite a report from the spending watchdog the Audit Commission this month which said a further switch to non-branded, or generic, drugs could save the NHS at least pounds 45m a year.

Her move follows intense pressure from the drug industry, which reacted with fury to Dr Mawhinney's announcement last month that he was keen to explore generic substitution - where pharmacists can replace a doctor's prescription for brand name drugs with cheaper generic ones.

Mrs Bottomley told a Financial Times conference that the Government had never been convinced that generic substitution was the solution.

The ABPI welcomed Mrs Bottomley's statement.

David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, accused her of showing more regard for 'her friends in the drug industry' than for patients.