What are our rights regarding prescribed medication, UK?

These are frequently asked questions on here:

Can we refuse change to our existing medication because we believe we are doing well as we are - but, say, NICE has recommended a change, maybe cost driven?

Can we insist on trying something that, say, gets reported on here as a new inhaler working well for some and is clinically appropriate for us - but our GP appears reluctant to prescribe it as s/he's 'happy with the existing inhaler..' for example.

Can we insist on staying with the patented drug brand, even after a generic version has been launched? There was a period when I was ok taking the statin Lipitor, but got gastric sides with the generic Atorvastatin - supposedly same drug. Lipitor is 10 times the cost of Avn to NHS..

I haven't found any links to official guidance. Has anyone?

It would be really helpful if BLF could inform us?

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11 Replies

  • Hi soulsaver

    I'll forward your questions onto one of our nurses and I'll let you know when I have some more information for you.

    In the mean time, if anyone wants to speak to one of our nurses for advice on their condition / management of their condition, please call our helpline on 03000 030 555.

    Best wishes,


    BLF Admin

  • Ben_BLF Thanks for the quick response, Ben - you're on the ball. :)

  • haha, I try! :-) I'll get back to you as soon as I can - it might not be today but I'll update this post as soon as I hear back :-)

  • I would love to know the answers to those questions too please.

  • My impression is we can't refuse or insist on anything anymore but I've no links to back that up. When I wanted to stay on a branded reflux drug because I'd tried the generic & it wasn't as good, the GP said "but it's exactly the same drug". However I pointed out the excipients were different & he then agreed to keep me on the branded one. It's unfortunate as the generic is so much cheaper, but no good if the reflux breaks through

  • Except if sectioned under the mental health act, you certainly have the right refuse to take any prescribed medication. So you could refuse to take the alternative, for sure.

  • Yes we can of course refuse any treatment or drug we like. But I don't think we can insist on an alternative, even under the Mental Health Act, can we? Especially if it's more expensive?

  • I was advised by my oxygen nurse to change from ventolin to a breathe ease inhaler because my technique. Not so good .She sent a request to Doctor to no avail reckon it must be more expensive

  • Assuning that you are talking about NHS treatment, then the answers to the 3 questions are No No No. But your GP should, of course, listen to and respond to any genuine concerns.

  • Good Morning soulsaver ,

    Our nurse has advised that the best place to look for guidance on this is the General Medical Council's website - in particular this link below:


    I hope this helps.

    Best wishes,


  • Thanks Ben

    This is the bit the link refers to:

    "15. In Consent: patients and doctors making decisions together,(5) we say:(

    5d). If a patient asks for a treatment that the doctor considers would not be of overall benefit to them, the doctor should discuss the issues with the patient and explore the reasons for their request. If, after discussion, the doctor still considers that the treatment would not be of overall benefit to the patient, they do not have to provide the treatment. But they should explain their reasons to the patient, and explain any other options that are available, including the option to seek a second opinion."

    However that doesn't unequivocally resolve the questions IMO, as in all the example questions posed the drug being requested is certain to be still to one's overall benefit. .. (OK, the pedantics may debate 'not necessarily...' in the 2nd ... may not be 'on the pathway' ...but you get the overall meaning.. )

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