Shoppers are forking out nearly TEN TIMES more for branded medicines and supplements in store that are identical to the shop’s own brands, a study has found.
The cost of branded over-the-counter pain killers and supplements at high street supermarkets and chemists can be up to 725 per cent more expensive than their no-frills versions.
And the products, which in some cases contain exactly the same ingredients as their cheaper alternatives, claim to do the same job.
The price comparison study into branded and own label products, was commissioned by Voucherbox.co.uk, which warns consumers could be paying a huge price for packaging.
The research found that market-leading painkiller Nurofen costs on average £2.01 per pack of 16 tablets.
But generic alternatives at Asda and Tesco can be bought for as little as 30p – a difference of 567 per cent.
Both products contain exactly 200mg of ibuprofen and claim to offer the same pain relief.
Similar price hikes can be found with antihistamine medication, a must-have for anyone who suffers with hay fever.
Supermarket shoppers can get own label allergy relief from as little as £1, while branded alternatives such as Clarityn, which contains the same active ingredient, loratadine, are typically sold for £4.71 a pack.
Big brand multivitamin Centrum Advance can cost as much as £5.59 at some pharmacies, but Lloyds Pharmacy sells their own version A-Z multivitamin, with similar ingredients, for just £1.59 – three and a half times cheaper.
It’s a similar picture with paracetamol, flu remedies and aspirin, with all recognisable over-the-counter brands
A pack of paracetamol can cost as little as 19p, and aspirin as little 28p at supermarkets, while their branded alternatives can set shoppers back £1.45 and £1.50 respectively.
Another market-leader, Lemsip, a product designed to help ease the symptoms of colds and flu, offers a combination of paracetamol and phenylephrine hydrochloride.
It costs as much as much £3.39 in high street pharmacies like Boots or Lloyds Pharmacy, but generic versions can be bought for as little as #1.80 in supermarkets.
According to Professor Jayne Lawrence, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, branded products cost more because companies have to recover enormous costs associated with developing the drug.
She said: “Once the patent on the original version runs out, other companies are free to make their own version, and as they don’t bear the original development costs they can sell it much more cheaply.
“Branded and generic products are the same if the dose of the drug and the formulation are exactly the same.”
The current value of the over-the-counter market in the UK is £2.5 billion with a whopping 942 million packs of medicine purchased in 2013.
Shoppers spend over £544m annually for pain relief medication like paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin, and £352 million on vitamins and food supplements.
According to the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, the average person spends £5 a week on health related products.
But with an average cost of £2.60 per pack of medication, it can be a hard pill for consumers to swallow.
So are we just paying for the packaging and the shelf space? Are consumers being ripped off?
Peter Berry-Ottaway, technical Director for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, UK, said that while there may be subtle differences between some products, consumers have to be aware of the realities of marketing.
He said: “Brands invest heavily in imagery and advertising. They pay a premium to have their product at eye-level on the supermarket shelf.
“The generic versions do not tend to be supported by the same level of marketing and can therefore sell for less.
“But due to stringent regulations, if the ingredients are the same, generic products are as good quality as the best-selling brands.”
So while some of the premium brands may offer more choice in terms of the specific vitamins, minerals and/or other substances added, own-label versions are more likely to be standard formulations with less choice.
Shane Forster, UK Country Manager for Voucherbox, said “We Brits are a pretty savvy bunch when it comes to shopping around and looking for best prices and that’s no different when it comes to medicine and supplements.
“Most of us know there are savings to be made if we purchase white label and own brand products which often do exactly the same job, but the placebo effect and the trust we place in big brands is there to be seen.”