Know how much your medicines cost?

Most people collect their prescription from the pharmacy without having any idea how much it actually costs. It is either free, or £8.20 per item if you pay prescription charges, isn’t it?

Well, not quite… In a move to encourage more responsible use of NHS resources the Health Minister Jeremy Hunt has announced that soon the price of your medicines will be printed on the pack if it costs more than £20, along with note that the cost is ‘Funded by the UK taxpayer’.

Money down the plug hole?

The average prescription item in England cost £9.39 in May, but most pharmacies dispense dozens of items every month costing well over £100.

Everyone knows the NHS is strapped for cash, yet missed GP appointments cost the NHS £162 million each year and missed hospital appointments as much as £750 million – and £300 million a year is spent on wasted medicines.

The Government hopes that putting the cost of the medicine on the pack will not just reduce waste by reminding people of the cost, but also improve patient care by encouraging people to take their medicines as prescribed.

The official position on e-cigs

Have you tried to quit smoking using nicotine patches, given up and moved onto e-cigs as an alternative to the original cancer sticks?

There’s no clear guidance about the place of e-cigs in reducing the harm caused by smoking. Although e-cigs are widely available they are not yet regulated so their safety, effectiveness and quality cannot be assured. However, they are likely to be less harmful than cigarettes, says NICE.

E-cigs: Is there an official position?

The official advice is that the best way to reduce the harm from smoking is to stop completely. However, nicotine inhaled from smoking tobacco is highly addictive, which is why people find it so difficult to stop – but the main harm from smoking is from the tar in tobacco.

For people who are unable to stop in one step, reducing how much they smoke with the support of licensed nicotine-containing products such as patches or gum, and advice from stop smoking services, can help.

Confused? Ask your pharmacist for advice on how best to quit.

Herbal medicines can have adverse effects too

There is a popular misconception that herbal medicines, because they are natural and can be bought without a prescription, do not have any side effects.

The popular herbal remedy St. John’s Wort, which is commonly used for treating depression, has been found to cause the same sort of adverse reactions as prescription antidepressants in a study conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Herbal medicines can have side effects too

According to the study St. John’s Wort can produce dangerous increases in body temperature and blood pressure, similar to adverse reactions seen with the prescription medicine fluoxetine, and serious side effects can occur if the two drugs are taken together.

Often adverse reactions from herbal medicines go unreported because they are not widely used or because they are not considered drugs. You should start thinking of St John’s Wort, and other herbal medicines, as medicines and seek advice from your pharmacist to be sure you can use them safely.

Migraine is not just a headache

Migraine is a common condition that affects people of all ages, races and cultures. Two thirds of sufferers are women, and all migraine sufferers are more likely to experience migraine between the ages of 20 – 50 years. A migraine attack can last from four to 72 hours.

Don’t give up. Treatments are available in the pharmacy.

Migraine is more than just a headache. Other symptoms can include visual disturbances (flashing lights, blind spots in the vision), nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light, noise or smells.

Despite this around 60% of sufferers never consult their GP because they mistakenly think that nothing can be done to help them. However, there is a wide range of effective treatments available, some on prescription, but many available from your pharmacy.

Migraine Awareness Week focussed on young people. If you have suffered migraines since childhood or your teenage years Migraine Action would love to hear from you. Go to to find out more.

Should we all be taking a Vitamin D supplement?

Vitamin D for all?

Draft guidelines from an expert government nutrition committee in England recommend that we should all take a daily vitamin D supplement.

Should we all be taking a Vitamin D supplement?

Current advice is that vitamin D supplements should only be taken by ‘at risk’ groups, which include pregnant women, infants under 5 and the elderly.

People get most of their vitamin D from the action of sunlight on their skin, but low levels of sunlight during the winter and spending hours indoors can put you at risk of deficiency.

Dietary sources of vitamin D are limited and oily fish is the principle source, although there are small amounts in egg yolks, red meat and some breakfast cereals.

Vitamin D is responsible for bone development and deficiency can result in rickets and brittle bones.

Our pharmacy will carry vitamin D 10mcg supplements, which is the recommended strength, and you can ask the pharmacist for further advice.

Emergency contraception – available from your pharmacy

There are three methods of emergency contraception and they can be used up to varying time limits after unprotected sex.

Emergency contraception - there when you need it.
Emergency contraception – there when you need it.

The two emergency hormonal pills that are available are Levonelle, which can be taken up to three days after unprotected sex, and ellaOne, which can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex. Both are available from your pharmacy without prescription – ask your pharmacist.

A third option is an emergency intrauterine device (IUD), sometimes called the coil, which can be fitted up to five days after unprotected sex and can then be left to act as a regular method of contraception for five to 10 years, depending on the type.

A recent Family Planning Association survey found that more than one-quarter (29%) of sexually active women aged 16 to 54 have had unprotected sex in the last two years and did not use emergency contraception, despite saying they were not planning a pregnancy.

Is it worth the risk?

A new site and app for those with food allergies and intolerances

Foodmaestro for those with food allergies

FoodMaestro is a new online site with a free-to-download app aimed at those with food allergies and intolerances.

New free app available to help manage your diet and food allergies
New free app available to help manage your diet and food allergies

Created in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, the site offers information on over 30,000 ingredients and immediate access to nutritional information on 100,000 UK food products via a built-in bar code scanner in the app.

Users can create personalised dietary profiles and personal product lists. They can find food products by name or keywords, and analyse them for nutritional value, and discover allergen information on each ingredient.

The new service is targeted at families with food allergies and intolerances to enable them to shop safely from home or at the supermarket. It could put dieticians, who spend hours researching and reviewing products to recommend to their patients, out of business!

Go to  to find out what it’s all about.