Nurofen is the most overpriced over-the-counter medicine, while branded drugs are three times more expensive than their generic counterparts

Francesca Washtell
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A picture taken 10 June 2005 in Paris of
Branded medicines were on average three times more expensive than their generic counterparts

It's enough to give you a headache.

If you thought you'd been short-changed by the cost of painkillers last time you had a cold, or by hayfever tablets as soon as spring came, you were probably right.

Branded medication costs on average nearly three times as much as generic equivalents that do exactly the same job, according to research by

The worst offender was painkiller Nurofen, manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser, which costs eight times as much as its generic counterpart.

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A packet of 16 Nurofen from Asda cost £1.98, while Ibuprofen, made of the same ingredients and bringing about the same result, cost 25p, also at Asda. That's a difference of 87 per cent.

We're onto you, Nurofen (Source: Nurofen/Reckitt Benckiser)

In second and third place, a 30-pill packet of hayfever relief drug Clarityn was 83 per cent more expensive than the generic Loratadine, while a 16-pack of Anadin Paracetamol was 81 per cent more expensive than 16 non-branded Paracetamol.

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Martin Lewis, founder of, said:

The pharmaceutical industry is full of genuine wizards. There are the ones who make the drugs that help in the first place. Then there are the marketers who use a raft of tricks to persuade us there’s hidden magic to their branded goods.

Actually what really counts is the active ingredient. That's the stuff that does the job. If it's the same, sticking with branded drugs doesn't give extra aid to your health, it just hurts your wealth - with massive mark-ups that go to pay for their adverts and profits.

Consumers also need a healthy dose of scepticism when it comes to marketing claims that painkillers can target one specific area of your body.

"These household name firms also sell virtually identical products in different packaging, to make you think you’ve got a targeted special medicine for your condition – in fact it’s just the same old thing," Lewis added.

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"Yet the marketing creates a little doubt - we’re all guilty of thinking ‘surely there must be a reason for saying this one is good for back pain’ - and when you’re hurting you spend a little extra."

Only people who have allergies need to take care, added, as sufferers need to check there's nothing in the "non-active" ingredients that is different and could cause a problem.

Branded product Cheapest price Generic equivalent Cheapest price Saving as a percentage
1. Nurofen (16) £1.98 Asda Ibuprofen (16) 25p Asda 87 per cent
2. Clarityn (30) £6 Sainsbury's (i) Loratadine (30) £1 Savers 83 per cent
3. Anadin Paracetamol (16) £1 Savers Paracetamol (16) 19p Asda 81 per cent
4. Nurofen Joint and Back Pain Gel 35g £4 Asda Ibuprofen gel 35g 99p Home Bargains 75 per cent
5. Piriteze (30) £6 Sainsbury's (i) Cetirizine (30) £1.49 Poundstretcher 75 per cent
6. Sudafed Blocked Nose capsules(12) £2.39 Lloyds Max Strength Congestion Relief 60p Sainsbury's 75 per cent
7. Anadin Extra (16) £1.99 Lloyds Aspirin Extra 54p Asda 73 per cent
8. Imodium Original (6) £2.19 Savers Loperamide (6) 59p Home Bargains 73 per cent
9. Nurofen Kids 100ml £3.15 Sainsbury's Ibuprofen 3+mths 95p Savers 70 per cent
10. Vicks Sinex Micromist 15ml £3 Asda Nasal Decongestant Spray 15ml £1 Asda/Tesco 67 per cent
11. Calpol Infant 2+ mths 100ml £2.98 Asda Infant Paracetamol Suspension 100ml £1.09 Home Bargains 63 per cent
12. Corsodyl 300ml £4.49 Superdrug Chlorhexidine 300ml £2 Sainsbury's 55 per cent
13. Nurofen Migraine (12) £2.65 Sainsbury's Migraine Relief (12) £1.35 Asda 49 per cent
14. Lemsip Max sachets (10) £2.69 Savers Max Strength Cold and Flu £1.76 Asda 35 per cent
15. Piriton (30) £3 Sainsbury's Chlorphenamine Maleate (30) £2.75 Tesco 8 per cent

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