“In the UK, a wide range of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, both branded and generic, are available to buy from pharmacies and other retail outlets. This ensures people are able to choose a medicine, which suits their needs and their budget.
“The majority of branded medicines on the market in the UK are different to the generic equivalents and don’t share the same product licence (PL) number. As the article correctly points out, branded OTC medicines often have a different formulation to the generic equivalent, offering benefits to people such as a fast dissolving coating so the medicine works faster, a slow release formula so the symptom relief lasts longer, improved taste or easy to swallow formulations.
“Some OTC products are also marketed to target specific symptoms, this is because research shows that having specific symptoms displayed on the front of the pack helps people to navigate the shelf and choose a suitable product easily.
“Branded OTC medicines enjoy a long-standing heritage of trust and manufacturers invest heavily in years of research and new product development, often being the first to bring new medicines to market. While 20 years may be the standard length of patent for prescription medicines, this is not the case with OTC products. It is exceedingly rare for new OTC medicines to have any form of protection on entry to the market. Other companies are then free to make their own versions, and as they don’t bear the original development costs they can sell it at a lower price.
“As with all medicines, it’s important that people always read and follow the instructions and are careful not to take more than one product containing the same active ingredient. A pharmacist can give advice on the most suitable medicine to take if people are unsure.”