What are the different categories of medication?

What are the different categories of medication?

In the UK, medication is divided into four different categories: General Sales List, Pharmacy Medicines, Prescription Only Medicines and Controlled Drugs.

Every category has its own unique mark that identifies each medication within it. The marks also define the different rules surrounding how they should be used.

Healthcare professionals prescribing medication should understand the category it falls under. In this short blog article we’ll give a brief rundown of what each classification means.

General Sales List (GSL)

GSL medications have very few legal restrictions and can be purchased easily from anywhere.They would include items like paracetamol, vitamin supplements, some cold and flu relief and ibuprofen.

However, just because these medicines are freely available it doesn’t mean they’re totally risk free. Practitioners should still be careful when administering them to a patient, taking a patient history assessment and asking about any allergies.

Pharmacy Medicines

These are medicines that are found behind the counter in a high street pharmacy. It’s items such as stronger antihistamines, Viagra and mild sleeping tablets and they’re identified by a “P” on the packaging.

The pharmacist will ask the patient some questions, for example what the medication is for and have they taken it previously. Sale can then be refused if the pharmacist doesn’t believe it’s the right medication for the patient.

Prescription Only Medicines

Prescription Only Medicines can be addictive if misused and some of the side effects from them can be harmful. The packaging for these medicines will show the letters “POM”.

A huge variety of medication is Prescription Only, but common ones include stronger sleeping tablets, antidepressants, antibiotics and insulin.

Prescription Only Medicines can only be administered by a qualified prescriber such as a doctor or a dentist.

Controlled Drugs

The highest and most serious category of drugs are Controlled Drugs. They are very similar in nature to Prescription Only Medicines, with the difference being that these are specifically listed as Controlled Drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Controlled Drugs are all marked with “POM” and “CD” on the packaging. Again, they can only be dispensed via a doctor, dentist or similar. They also are subject to strict rules around storage, as well as how they’re dispensed and administered.

Do you feel confident in understanding the different categories of medication?

Designed for non-medical prescribers, we recommend signing up to PDUK’s accredited Annual NMP V300 update course.

This one-day interactive generic course is ideal for anyone who already holds a recorded prescribing qualification (V300), and who is working within the NMP role.

The course is currently being delivered online, and is worth 8 hours of valuable CPD. Completion of fulfils the requirement for NMPs to demonstrate ongoing CPD by updating their qualification annually. As this is one of our most popular courses it tends to book up well in advance so make sure you secure your place today.