Over the counter medication

Conditions for which over the counter items should not routinely be prescribed in primary care.

NHS England has launched a public consultation on reducing prescribing of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for minor, short-term health concerns which could save the NHS £136 million a year and encourage more people to self care.

A list of 33 minor health concerns has been identified by a national joint clinical working group which are either self-limiting or suitable for self-care. Vitamins/minerals and probiotics have also been included as items of low clinical effectiveness which are of high cost to the NHS.

Indicative minor illnesses or items for which prescribing could be restricted:

Self-limiting illnesses:

  1. Acute Sore Throat
  2. Cold Sores
  3. Conjunctivitis
  4. Coughs and colds and nasal congestion
  5. Cradle Cap (Seborrhoeic dermatitis – infants)
  6. Haemorrhoids
  7. Infant Colic
  8. Mild Cystitis

Minor illnesses suitable for self care:

  1. Contact Dermatitis
  2. Dandruff
  3. Diarrhoea (Adults)
  4. Dry Eyes/Sore tired Eyes
  5. Earwax
  6. Excessive sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
  7. Head lice
  8. Indigestion and Heartburn
  9. Infrequent constipation
  10. Infrequent Migraine
  11. Insect bites and stings
  12. Mild Acne
  13. Mild Dry Skin/Sunburn
  14. Mild to Moderate Hay fever/Allergic Rhinitis
  15. Minor burns and scalds
  16. Minor conditions associated with pain, discomfort and/fever. (e.g. aches and sprains, headache, period pain, back pain)
  17. Mouth ulcers
  18. Nappy Rash
  19. Oral Thrush
  20. Prevention of dental caries
  21. Ringworm/Athletes foot
  22. Teething/Mild toothache
  23. Threadworms
  24. Travel Sickness
  25. Warts and Verrucae

Items of low clinical effectiveness:

  • Probiotics
  • Vitamins and minerals.


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