Too many GPs are being influenced by pharmaceutical marketing rather than official NHS advice when it comes to ordering drugs, MPs believe.
A report published today by the Commons' public accounts committee makes the claim as it analyses the £8 billion spent every year by the NHS on prescription drugs.
"It's hard to doubt that the blandishments of the pharmaceutical industry are having an effect. But GPs must concentrate more on following official guidelines, increasing the prescribing of generic drugs where clinically appropriate," committee chairman Edward Leigh said.
The report also criticises GPs for spending £200 million more than is necessary every year because they prefer more expensive branded drugs to equally effective generic versions.
Doctors are contesting the report's findings. The British Medical Association argues it is not possible to assess the extent of pharmaceutical companies' marketing influence.
The chairman of its GP committee's clinical and prescribing sub-committee, Bill Beeby, said: "The PAC report acknowledges that there has been a substantial increase in prescribing generic drugs in recent years and with just over two per cent of the overall drugs bill identified as potential savings it shows that the official advice is already being heeded."