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Managing your medicines

Some medicines, that are available to buy over the counter (OTC) from pharmacies and supermarkets, are no longer prescribed by GP practices. GP practices will advise patients to buy these medicines OTC.

The medicines affected are those used to treat minor, short-term health conditions which:

  • you can easily treat yourself (self-care) or
  • should get better on their own (self-limiting)

Make sure your medicine cabinet is well stocked for the cold and flu season this winter and buy some over the counter medicines with the rest of your shopping.

Why do GP practices no longer prescribe these items?

It costs the NHS much more to prescribe these medicines on a prescription than if they are bought OTC. This is because the NHS has to pay extra fees for the medical consultation(s) and for the pharmacy to supply them. This is money that could be used to support more serious and/or long-term health conditions.


This guidance applies to ALL patients, including those who are exempt from paying prescription charges.

They can be purchased without the need for a prescription from pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail outlets.

Just like with other goods, the price of medicines may vary between retailers so it is a good idea to shop around to get the best value. The average cost of most of these medicines will be around £2 to £3 and some will be even cheaper.

Schools, holiday clubs, carers, etc. may require medicines to be supplied with labels on them. Some pharmacies will label medicines purchased OTC for you. Ask at your pharmacy or speak to your GP practice to find a participating pharmacy.

Community pharmacies play a key role in advising patients on minor conditions that you can treat yourself. They are experts on medicines and can signpost you to other services if needed. Most pharmacies have a quiet area, away from other customers, where you can speak to a pharmacist in private. You don’t need an appointment, you can just walk in. Many pharmacies also have extended opening hours, including evenings and weekends.

Minor conditions you can treat yourself – and what medicines to buy

* These items are only available from your pharmacy

Aciclovir cream

Simethicone suspensions

Eye bath/wash
Chloramphenicol drops (2yrs+) *


Cough mixtures
Decongestant nose drops/spray
Cold/flu capsules/sachets

Emulsifying ointment *

Cystitis relief sachets

Coal tar shampoo
Ketoconazole shampoo

Moisturising cream
Hydrocortisone cream (10yrs+) *

Hypromellose 0.3% eye drops
Carbomer 0.2% gel *
Paraffin ointment *

Olive oil drops


Chlorphenamine *
Steroid nasal spray (18yrs+)
Sodium cromoglycate eye drops

Wet combing
Medicated treatment

Benzoyl peroxide cream/gel *

Hydrocortisone cream
Chlorphenamine *


Barrier cream/ointment

Amorolfine nail lacquer *


Benzydamine throat spray *

Travel sickness tablets *

Mebendazole (2yr+) *

Miconazole oral gel (4months+) *

Clotrimazole 2% cream *
Clotrimazole pessary *
Fluconazole once capsule *

Salicylic acid gel
Freeze product