What are Specials?

What are Specials

A Special is an unlicensed medicine prescribed to meet the individual clinical need of a patient when a suitable licensed medicine is not available. ‘Specials’ account for approximately 1% of all prescriptions in the UK, but account for more than 75,000 different formulations.

Medicines for specific patient needs

There are many different reasons why a licensed medicine might not be available. Often the formulation that would best meet the patient’s needs has not been commercially manufactured by any drug company in a licensed version. Sometimes the licensed product that may suit the patient’s needs has been discontinued temporarily. In these circumstances a Special will be prescribed. These Special prescriptions are dealt with in exactly the same way as any other prescription, except that the pharmacist dispensing the drug will have to take steps to fulfil the prescription in a different way. This can be either by formulating it themselves or, as most often happens, by contacting a pharmaceutical Specials manufacturer to make up the prescription.

Types of Specials

There are more than 75,000 different formulations of Specials prescribed every year and very many reasons why a Special is needed.

Although Specials represent approximately 1% of prescriptions, this volume is made up of a huge array of different formulations, from creams and liquids to intravenous and injectables. Very few Specials prescriptions are exactly the same or are required at the same time, and so although some can be made up in small batches, a large number are made up individually to meet the needs of the patient.

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