Branded drugs up to EIGHT times pricier than generic versions
1st July 2016
pillsMartin Lewis may have sold off most of his shares in, however the multi-millionaire obviously still cares about saving the general public a few quid. Lewis, the founder of the hugely popular price comparison website, has spoken out about the pharmaceutical industry – in particularly the topic of branded drugs v their generic equivalents. He and his team conducted research into the matter and made some alarming discoveries. The researchers looked at the retail price of 15 over-the-counter medications and found how the branded versions are on average almost thrice as expensive as non-branded 'generic' drugs. To put it into context, Loratadine 10mg x 30 tablets is priced at £1.99 from Medical Specialists® Pharmacy, whereas the similar Boots One-a-Day Allergy Relief 10mg x 30 tablets costs £8.19. Painkiller brand Nurofen was found to be most over-priced branded medicine, costing at around 8 times the price of a generic, non-branded equivalent, followed by Clarityn (a branded version of Loratadine), and then Anadin Paracetamol. However, according to the article in the Daily Mail, pharmacies such as Boots and Lloyds are selling ‘own-brand' generics at over 3 times the price of the lowest priced generic version – sometimes even costing more than the branded equivalents. Consumers may benefit from an 87% saving by switching from a Nurofen (16 pack) priced at £1.98 and opting for Asda’s own brand, costing just 25p. Moreover, there is an 83% saving to be made by swapping antihistamine Clarityn (30 pack) for a £1 equivalent sold at Savers. The research comes after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently banned a TV advert by Nurofen for falsely claiming the Nurofen Joint & Back Pain Relief tablets could specifically target joint and back pain. The ASA found ‘there was no mechanism by which the product actively sought out the source of pain’. Martin Lewis, founder of, said: 'The pharmaceutical industry is full of genuine wizards. There are the ones who make the drugs that help in the first place. “Then there are the marketers who use a raft of tricks to persuade us there’s hidden magic to their branded goods. “Actually what really counts is the active ingredient. That’s the stuff that does the job. If it’s the same, sticking with branded drugs doesn’t give extra aid to your health, it just hurts your wealth - with massive mark-ups that go to pay for their adverts and profits. He continued: “These household name firms also sell virtually identical products in different packaging, to make you think you’ve got a targeted special medicine for your condition – in fact it’s just the same old thing. “Yet the marketing creates a little doubt - we’re all guilty of thinking "surely there must be a reason for saying this one is good for back pain" - and when you’re hurting you spend a little extra. “Don’t think Boots and Lloyds Pharmacies are any better either. Some of their "own brands" especially for hay fever are far more costly than the generic tablets they also sell – and again it’s the same active ingredient. “Only those with allergies need to take care, as then you also need to check there’s nothing in the ‘non-active’ ingredients that’s different too.” For the research, Lewis and his researchers analysed the cheapest prices they could gather for popular over-the-counter drugs, looking at in-store and online where possible, at Asda, Boots, Home Bargains, Lloyds, Poundstretcher, Sainsbury’s, Savers, Superdrug and Tesco. Independent and internet pharmacies were excluded from the research. The research showed that generic versions beat branded the medicines on price and have the same active pharmaceutical ingredient, but found there are other ingredients which can vary. Lewis added: “Make sure you're aware of any possible allergic reactions and ensure the medication you choose if correct for you - if in doubt, check with the pharmacist or your GP. “It is also worth noting that the flavours and taste of generic medication can differ to branded products too.” He also stressed that companies can market various products differently, even those with the same active ingredient in, which could confuse consumers. Although the MHRA allow non-prescription drugs to have 'informative' names to help people find a product without any assistance, Lewis and his team came to the conclusion that this is resulting in very similar medicines being marketed in different ways. For example, they found 8 Nurofen products, all of which had Ibuprofen as their active ingredient.  

Ranking based on saving as a % ranked largest to smallest

Branded product

Cheapest price

Generic equivalent

Cheapest price

Saving as a percentage

1 Nurofen (16) £1.98 Asda Ibuprofen (16) 25p Asda 87%
2 Clarityn (30) £6 Sainsbury's (i) Loratadine (30) £1 Savers 83%
3 Anadin Paracetamol (16) £1 Savers Paracetamol (16) 19p Asda 81%
4 Nurofen Joint and Back Pain Gel 35g £4 Asda Ibuprofen gel 35g 99p Home Bargains 75%
5 Piriteze (30) £6 Sainsbury's (i) Cetirizine (30) £1.49 Poundstretcher 75%
6 Sudafed Blocked Nose capsules(12) £2.39 Lloyds Max Strength Congestion Relief 60p Sainsbury's 75%
7 Anadin Extra (16) £1.99 Lloyds Aspirin Extra 54p Asda 73%
8 Imodium Original (6) £2.19 Savers Loperamide (6) 59p Home Bargains 73%
9 Nurofen Kids 100ml £3.15 Sainsbury's Ibuprofen 3+mths 95p Savers 70%
10 Vicks Sinex Micromist 15ml £3 Asda Nasal Decongestant Spray 15ml £1 Asda/Tesco 67%
11 Calpol Infant 2+ mths 100ml £2.98 Asda Infant Paracetamol Suspension 100ml £1.09 Home Bargains 63%
12 Corsodyl 300ml £4.49 Superdrug Chlorhexidine 300ml £2 Sainsbury's 55%
13 Nurofen Migraine (12) £2.65 Sainsbury's Migraine Relief (12) £1.35 Asda 49%
14 Lemsip Max sachets (10) £2.69 Savers Max Strength Cold and Flu £1.76 Asda 35%
15 Piriton (30) £3 Sainsbury's Chlorphenamine Maleate (30) £2.75 Tesco 8%
(i) Usually £9
  Generic V Own Brand Medicines
Active ingredient Asda





Cheapest brand

Cheapest generic

Cetirizine (30) £2.50 £8.19 £7.79 £2.75 £2.75 £6 (ii) £1.49
Max Strength Cold & Flu (i) £1.76 £2.99 £2.79 £2 £1.80 £2.69 £1.76
Loperamide (6) £1 £1.99 n/a £1 £1 £2.19 59p
Loratadine (30) £2.50 £8.19 £7.99 n/a £2.75 £6 (ii) £1
Paracetamol Suspension £1.75 £2.65 £2.29 £1.90 £2 £2.98 £1.09
(i) Paracetamol 1000mg, phenylephrine hydrochloride 12.2mg (ii) Usually £9