Where’s the harm in GPs prescribing over-the-counter medicines for free?

A possibly interesting article in the Guardian.

The system is also riddled with exceptions and complexities. In a historic anomaly, if you have an underactive thyroid that means you need to take daily replacement therapy, you get all your prescriptions for free. But if you have an overactive thyroid that requires drug treatment, you pay. Such issues have obviously helped persuade the Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish that it’s simply not worth bothering with charging.


It has always looked to me as if iatrogenic hypothyroidism (that is, caused by doctors prescribing carbimazole or propylthiouracil) is every bit as deserving of "free" prescriptions as hypothyroidism with any other cause. Getting that argument past someone who doesn't want to agree is another matter altogether.

7 Replies

  • Thanks for this Rob. 

    I never agreed with the introduction of prescription charges in the first place. The nation's health ought to be paramount, and the best way to achieve this is to have health care free at the point of delivery. It seems we would rather waste energy quibbling over who should pay and who should not - just look at all the effort  poured into those nit picking, complaining responses, which surely could be better spent on more positive ways to keep well. 

    Ironically, since getting my own NDT, I have not had reason to need any prescription medicines. On levothyroxine I was in and out the doctor for seemingly endless prescriptions. 

    I suspect a dreadful American style Heath system will be foisted upon us as the NHS is slowly undermined and dismantled, but at least Wales, Scotland and NI have had the common sense to bin devisive prescription charges. May be there is some hope.....

  • Hi helvella, 

    I didn't realise that if you are overactive you had to pay. What's the difference, you still need drugs! :-)

  • However, needing the medicines is true for many, many conditions.

    Working backwards to try to establish the fundamental rationale for "free" prescriptions could be a bit of a waste of time. The environment in which the decision was first taken, and the awkwardness of revoking that (or adding to it) may mean it doesn't get changed.

  • I think the medical profession don't like to change thinhs do they? Once they say something it's like it's carved in stone! :-)

  • It's true that medicine rarely keeps up with science.

    I am not at all clear who made the decisions about prescription charge exemption and on what grounds. I'd guess it was actually political - with "advice" from civil service and medics.

  • I think the original idea, when the nhs began in July 1948 was that everything was going to be free. They soon realised it was going to cost more than they realised. It always comes down to money!

  • Wiki says:

    The existing list of medical exemptions is essentially a list of conditions for which long-term life-saving medication was available in 1968, and it has never been revised since.

You may also like...