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Categories of Medicine

There are three legal categories of medicines, identified according to their potency and risk of adverse side effects and the need for the supply to be professionally supervised.

1. Prescription Only Medicines (POM)

These medicines may normally only be sold or supplied against the signed prescription of an ‘appropriate prescriber’ i.e. a doctor, dentist, nurse prescriber, optometrist prescriber, pharmacist prescriber, radiographer prescriber (supplementary only), physiotherapist prescriber or podiatrist prescriber. A radiographer who is annotated on the HPC register as a supplementary prescriber may prescribe POMs under a written CMP. POMs are restricted to those patients that a health professional has identified as an appropriate recipient.

Some POMs are classed as controlled drugs (CD), such as morphine, pethidine and methadone and are restricted under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) and the classes of persons who are authorised to supply such medicines are defined under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations (2001). A radiographer who is annotated on the HPC register as a Supplementary Prescriber may prescribe controlled drugs under a written CMP.

2. Pharmacy Medicines (P)

These must be supplied or sold by a pharmacist or under the supervision of a pharmacist in registered pharmacy premises (unless specified otherwise in a statutory exemption).

These products can be sold with reasonable safety from premises that are under the supervision of a pharmacist but without the need for a written prescription. The products may be available for self-selection by the general public but a pharmacist is aware of the purchase at the point of sale.

3. General Sales List Medicines (GSL)

These products can be sold with reasonable safety without the supervision or advice of a doctor or pharmacist and may be obtained through a variety of outlets. All GSL medicines must hold a valid UK product licence and all the active ingredients must be listed in the product. Regulations restrict the pack sizes and quantities of the medicine that may be sold without supervision. Larger volumes may only be sold under supervision (P class) or prescription (POM class). An example of this would be paracetamol that is limited to 16 tablets under GSL terms, but may be supplied in larger quantities under P or POM terms.

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