Over the counter medicines

Over the counter medicines leafletThe prescribing of over the counter medicines is changing. Your GP, nurse or pharmacist will not generally give you a prescription for over the counter medicines for a range of minor health concerns.

Instead, over the counter medicines are available to buy from your local pharmacy or supermarket.

The NHS currently spends around £136 million a year on prescriptions for medicines that can be bought from a pharmacy or supermarket, such as paracetamol. 

The costs to the NHS for many of the items used to treat minor conditions are often higher than the prices for which they can be purchased over the counter as there are hidden costs. For example, a pack of 16 paracetamol 500mg tablets can be purchased for less than 50p from a pharmacy, whereas the cost to the NHS is around three times as much.

By reducing the amount it spends on over the counter medicines, the NHS can give priority to treatments for people with more serious conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and mental health problems.

Your local pharmacy can offer help and clinical advice to manage minor health concerns and if your symptoms suggest it’s more serious, they’ll ensure you get the care you need.

Find out more

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