Save money on medicines and prescriptions
Over the counter medicines is big business in the UK. Smart with Cash want to help people save money on medicines and prescriptions as these costs can seriously eat into your budget. Many people with headaches, coughs etc will pop into the chemist or a supermarket for tablets or medicine. Most opt for familiar brands such as panadol, calpol, sudafed, lempsip, nurofen as these are household names. Although they may be effective in relieving symptoms you could save money on medicines by buying generic medicines. Generic tablets may come in plain packaging but the key is check the ingredients against those named by main brands.
On a recent trip to the supermarket a family member wanted some Sudofed so I picked it up and saw that it contained Phenylephrine, paracetamol and caffeine. After checking the own brand cold and flu tablets I found they contained exactly the same ingredients. Sudofed costed £3.50 for 16 and the generic tablets £1.90 for the same amount. I had long been buying generic products but this little exercise got me thinking about how much the average family spends on medicines each month. You could save a heap of cash if if you switch to chemist/supermarket own brands each time you visit the shops. All medicines sold over the counter are subject to strict guidelines from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This gives a bit of reassurance regarding minimum level of quality and piece of mind for consumers.
Over the counter price test at Boots
After visiting Boots this month here is what I found:
Nurofen 200 mg 16 tablets at Boots costs £2.49 and Value Health Ibuprofen also found at Boots costs £0.35 for 16 tablets (around a 7th of the price)
Panadol Actifast 500mg 14 capsules costs £2.99, Boots Paracetamol 500mg 16 capsules costs £0.49 (around a 6th of the price)
Calpol Infant supension 200ml £5.99, Boots paracetamol suspension 200ml, £4.99, Morrisons, Tesco and Asda do their own version in 100ml for around £1.80 which is still a big saving if you bought 2 bottles.
Lemsip 10 sachets for £3.82 in Boots, Boots Cold and Flu 10 sachets at £1.99.
Seven Seas cod liver oil 120 capsules, £9.25, Boots cold liver oil 30 capsules £0.99 (£3.96 equivalent).
Don’t just look for the active ingredients also check that they are the same strength as their branded equivalent. Have a look at the quantity in the pack. In the above examples quantities differ slightly or several smaller packets were compared against a larger branded packet. Also remember that there are secondary ingredients which the larger brands may use to sweeten the medicine or to achieve a distinctive taste. It is important to always read the labels on medicines before you take them branded or otherwise and seek medical advice if you are unsure of the dose or have a medical condition, pregnant or breastfeeding. Another trick is to check the PL code which stands for product licence. Medicines with the same PL code are exactly the same and made in the same lab even though they might be in different packages. Don’t pay any more than you need to, it’s worth a quick look before you buy.
Save money on prescriptions
You can also save money on medicines and prescriptions by getting a prepayment certificate (PPC) if you get regular prescriptions. £29.10 for three months or £104 for a full year. Pay upfront or by direct debit and may be a lot cheaper getting the certificate than paying £8.40 for each item.
Minor ailment schemes operate in most pharmacies and enable them to provide certain medicines free of charge on the NHS. Children, patients 60 or over and people entitled to free prescriptions can ask to see a pharmacist under the scheme. Prescriptions include paracetamol based medicines, headlice treatments, cold and flu remedies, antihistamines for hayfever and allergic reactions. Also available are creams and ointments for skin irritations and lotions for conditions like chicken pox. The schemes free up valuable GP surgery time and often offer more convenient times for busy families i.e. after school and weekends.
You may be entitled to free prescriptions if you are in the following groups:
- 60 or over
- under 16
- 16-18 and in full-time education
- pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate (MatEx)
- have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
- have a continuing physical disability that prevents you from going out without help from another person and have a valid MedEx
- hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
- are an NHS inpatient
There are also several exemptions for people on low incomes:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- Universal Credit
- a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate – if you don’t have a certificate, you can show your award notice; you qualify if you get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element (or both) and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less
- a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)
See NHS England for more information on exemptions and how to apply.