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Getting the most out of the pharmaceutical budget is critical across all countries as the financial pressures on healthcare systems intensify. In this paper, we review global practice on encouraging the use of low costs generics versus branded pharmaceuticals, including patented products in the same class where care is not compromised. Our review ranges widely among European countries as well as other high income countries, including Abu Dhabi, Japan and the USA, and other low and middle income Countries. There is a particular focus on Scotland, building on previous publications. We conclude based on multiple publications, including several case studies, that achieving efficiency in pharmaceutical spending is possible in virtually all environments, although there are examples of technologies where generic or therapeutic substitution should not be encouraged. However, there is no magic bullet to achieving full and appropriate use of generics. Countries have to be prepared to use a number of different education, economic, engineering and enforcement methods to achieve success. Similarly, different approaches to achieve low prices for good quality generics. The combination of low prices and increased use of generics will help achieve or attain universal healthcare, benefiting all key stakeholder groups. We conclude with a call for greater cross-country learning in pursuit of what should be a common goal for all health systems.
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