Why Education Is Key When It Comes To Medicine

28/08/2017 20:27 BST | Updated 28/08/2017 20:27 BST

It's been a long-fought battle in the pharmaceutical industry.

And now, consumer watchdog Which? has uncovered how some drugs firms are selling pain pills for 10 times the price of generic alternatives.

It has never been a secret: it's just a matter of education.

Large drugs firms know how much trust people place in their well-marketed brands.

They know they can sell a mixture of ibuprofen and paracetamol in one pill, and charge much more than if someone was to buy own-brand alternatives of the same pills separately.

In the investigation, other drugs companies were found to offer remedies such as cold and flu medicines in different packaging, but with exactly the same ingredients.

In one example, three different nasal sprays offering relief for allergies, congestion and sinusitis, were found to be medically identical.

There's nothing stopping over-the-counter drugs companies from doing this.

It's about teaching the public to understand what they're buying, and reassuring them generic versions may not have the fancy packaging, but can be bought for a fraction of the price, and offer exactly the same relief.

Often, it just takes a little time taking note of what's written in small print on the back of the box.

Many people are unaware that each product has a specific product license or 'PL' number stamped on the back of packaging. It's a tiny detail, and one many customers will overlook.

If the same number is used on two products, they are the same medicine.

This is an important detail to remember if you're confused by what's on offer. In cases such as this, choose the cheaper option. It's a no-brainer.

It's also advisable to keep a 'first aid' kit at home of essential medicines you know you might need.

Having generic painkillers, ear drops, nasal sprays and cough medicine at home will always be cheaper than waiting until you have a headache and need paracetamol, only to find your nearest shop only sells expensive versions.

The companies say their prices reflect a level of trust customers have in their brands. They are right. Marketing is a powerful tool.

But we believe it's right to offer customers a choice.

At we offer branded products alongside unbranded alternatives so customers can examine the key active ingredients and make a choice.

If customers wish to buy branded versions because they trust the company, that's their call.

We just need to teach people to know what they are buying, and to make that conscious choice, rather than picking up a shiny packet out of habit.