Priciest over-the-counter medicines REVEALED – and how you can get the exact same one for


Have a favourite drug brand you always reach for when suffering from hayfever or stomach problems?

While they might relieve your physical suffering, opting for these famous favourites could be hurting your wallet.

MailOnline can reveal some branded versions of common drugs are nearly six times more expensive than their ‘generic’ or less famous equivalents, despite being made of precisely the same active ingredients.

Allergy relief medication Clarityn had one of the biggest mark-ups, costing £5.85, or 41.8p per tablet, for pack of 14 at Morrisons.

This is compared to a packet of 14 Bells Healthcare Hayfever & Allergy Relief Tablets at rival supermarket Asda for £1, or 7.1p per tablet. 

A MailOnline audit shows some brands are charging a fortune for simple drugs

A MailOnline audit shows some brands are charging a fortune for simple drugs

Both medications’ active ingredient — the pharmaceutical drug that makes them work — is called loratadine, meaning they work in precisely the same way. 

A MailOnline audit of other common medications has revealed other medications where you could make huge savings by switching to the generic.  

So-called generic drugs are usually sold in simpler packaging and sometimes omit additional ingredients like sweeteners and colourings found in branded versions. 

Painkiller Nurofen, which contains ibuprofen, was another that charged a premium compared to generic equivalents.

Supermarket Sainsbury’s is selling a 16-tablet package generic version of ibuprofen for just 42p, equivalent to 3p per 200mg pill.  

But the equivalent package of 16 Nurofen Pain Relief 200mg tablets costs £1.90, 12p per tablet. 

Hayfever sufferers can also end up forking out far more.

A pack of 14 of Piriteze’s cetirizine hydrochloride costs £6, or 43p a tablet, at Tesco. 

What is a PL number?

Every drug authorised for sale in the UK is given a unique product licence number (PL for short).

The digits can be found on the box the medicine comes in, and the leaflet inside.

If the PL number matches one found on another product, this means it is an identical drug — with the same active ingredients and formulation — just packaged in a different box.

But the supermarket’s own brand 14-tablet allergy treatment comes in at just £1.95, or 14p per pill. 

Diarrhoea treatment Imodium, containing the ingredient loperamide hydrochloride, is another priced almost 200 per cent more than its generic equivalent.

A pack of Asda’s six tablet loperamide hydrochloride treatment costs just £1, or 16.7p per tablet.

Imodium’s six tablet version in the same supermarket costs £3, or 50p per tablet.  

Decongestant nasal sprays are another product where you may be paying an unexpected premium.

Sainsbury’s generic version, containing oxymetazoline hydrochloride, is priced at £1.90, or £12.67 per 100ml. 

Meanwhile branded version Vicks, containing exactly same active ingredient, costs £4.50, or £30 per 100ml, a hike of 138 per cent. 

Experts said despite the flashy packaging and brand recognition, Brits shouldn’t be fooled into thinking a branded version was a more effective product for their ailments.  

Superintendent pharmacist for Chemist Click Abbas Kanani told this website: ‘There is not a great difference between the branded and non-branded products.

‘If there are any differences in the products, they will predominantly be in the inactive ingredients, such as the colouring and binding agents. 

‘These do not impact the mechanism of action of the drug, so as long as the active ingredient is the same, the generic products will do the same job.’

Mr Kanani added that although some people swear that a particular version of a drug works better, it may just all be in their head. 

‘Occasionally, some patients report back that they find the branded version to be more effective. Because the active ingredient is the same, this response is usually psychological, which is fine,’ he said.

He advised people to switch a generic version the next time they needed to take a medication as it could save them money. 

‘In relation to paying more for branded products, often, patients will have been using a particular brand for many years’, he said.

‘If you are open to trying the cheaper generic version, you may well find that it has the same effect.’



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