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Why have you been prescribed a special?

Adorable Girl with Pediatrician

A 'Special' is an unlicensed medicine that has been made especially to suit your needs. Your doctor will tell you if they have prescribed you or your child a Special and they will also tell you why. You may have been prescribed a Special for a number of different reasons; however it will be because there is no licensed alternative that is suitable to help treat you. 


The doctor who has prescribed your medicine will write on a prescription what needs to be in the medicine for your treatment. In most cases your pharmacist will order your medicine from a 'Specials manufacturer' who will hold a Specials Licence. Manufacturers who hold a licence have proved that the products they produce are safe and made to a high quality as a pharmaceutical medicine.​


Your doctor and pharmacist will do their utmost to ensure you get your medicine as speedily as possible, however because it has to be ordered and sometimes made especially for you, you may have to collect it the following day.

Your medicine will have been prescribed to you by a doctor and usually prepared by a Specials manufacturer. In order for the medicine to be effective you must follow the instructions accompanying it, including when and how often you should take it.

As with any medicine, licensed or unlicensed, there are occasionally side effects. If you have any serious side effects or reactions, it is important that you contact your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible. They have a duty of care to you and will need to know this information to help care for you.

The code of ethics says that the patient is the first concern to a doctor or pharmacist, so they need to be sure that the quality, safety and effectiveness is top notch before they pass it on to you.   

If you notice any effects which you think may be due to the Special medicine you have taken, you should report this using the link below.  You should also tell your doctor, healthcare professional or pharmacist.


Many people have difficulty swallowing tablets and capsules, but you should be very cautious before attempting to dissolve tablets in water by crushing or splitting them. This is because the effect of the drugs can be changed in the process of opening a tablet. There are different ways this can happen, for example:

  • They may not fully dissolve in the water in which case you don’t get the full dose

  • The capsule may be a slow release formula, designed to gradually dissolve inside your body over several hours – taking the whole dose in one ‘hit’ could be dangerous

  • The ingredients inside the tablet or capsule could irritate your skin or stomach

  • Some drugs are de-activated by acids in your stomach and need the protection of the capsule

  • Also, some drugs have a very unpleasant taste when not in a tablet form


Splitting tablets to obtain a smaller dose is also not recommended. This is because the drug (active ingredient) is not always evenly distributed within the tablet so you may get more, or less, than you need with every dose.

Unless it says so on the label, you shouldn’t crush, split or open tablets and capsules without first CHECKING WITH YOUR DOCTOR OR PHARMACIST.

If you are unable to swallow your tablets, or you need a smaller dose then your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine that is already licensed. If not, they may prescribe a Special for you, which will be a liquid version specially formulated for you.


If you have any questions regarding your medication then always discuss these with your doctor or pharmacist who will be happy to help.​

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