Many medicines which can be prescribed in the Health Service can be bought directly over the counter (OTC) for less than the prescription charge (£2.80). Without asking a pharmacist, patients or doctors cannot easily discover which medicines are cheaper OTC, but those who pay prescription charges may want to know, to save time and money; those exempt from the charges can save only time. The quantity of medicine required and the pack sizes available clearly determine any price comparison; very few medicines are cheaper OTC if large quantities are used. Prescription is in any case desirable when an OTC medicine is needed long-term. The occasion to buy from a pharmacy arises when the doctor or the pharmacist tells the patient that the medicine is cheaper OTC, or when the patient already knows this.
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