The UK Department of Health (DoH) has set out a series of money-saving proposals to allow for the dispensing of more generic medicines instead of branded products for patients needing primary care.

The new guidelines suggest establishing a list of medicines suitable for substitution and a list of those which are not, a move the government hopes will reduce the use of expensive branded products, which are estimated to cost the NHS around £9bn a year.

The DoH believes that in some cases this may only mean that a patient’s medication might look slightly different even though it is the same.

UK Health Minister Mike O’Brien said that the government want to make sure that patients and taxpayers are getting the best medicines at the best price.

“Patient safety is always our top priority and where clinically appropriate, it is sensible to allow more expensive branded products to be substituted with generic medicines, which are just as effective as the branded version,” he said.

“Introducing generic substitution will deliver savings to the NHS, which will go directly back into health services, ultimately benefitting patients.”

Under the proposals pharmacists will be able to dispense generic medicines instead of branded products unless otherwise specifically stated by the prescriber on the prescription form.

Prescribers will still be able to take into account an individual patient’s medical history and decide whether or not they believe a specific manufacturer’s product is more suitable than the generic.