some medications not covered UK

Why Are Some Medications Not Covered by Insurance in the UK?

Medications are an important part of healthcare, providing relief and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. However, not all drugs are covered by insurance in the UK, leaving patients to pay for them out of pocket.

This article explores why insurance providers don’t cover some meds in this country, as well as discussing the NHS prescription charges, unlicensed medicines, off-label use, insurance challenges with medication, and drugs that can be purchased without a prescription. By understanding these issues, you can make an informed decision on your healthcare and medication needs.

How Healthcare Works in the UK

Understanding the UK healthcare system requires a brief look at its history, particularly the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 [1]. The NHS was established to provide universal coverage and free healthcare to all residents, regardless of their ability to pay. This was a radical departure from the previous system, which relied on private healthcare and insurance to provide medical care.

The NHS is based on the principle that healthcare is a right and should be available to everyone, regardless of their income, social status, and medical history. According to the new system, patients don’t need to worry about being denied coverage.

Also, they can access medical treatment and most prescription medications without having to pay for them out of pocket. However, some drugs may not be covered by insurance in the UK, leaving patients to pay for them on their own. Why are some medications not covered by insurance providers in this country? Read about it in the section below. 

What Services Does the NHS Provide?

The NHS provides a wide range of medical services to patients in the United Kingdom. These services are available to all UK residents and are provided free of charge at the point of use. Here is what the NHS provides [2]:

• primary care services: This is the first point of contact for patients seeking medical treatment. General practitioners (GPs) and community nurses usually provide these services. You can book an appointment with your GP to discuss any medical concerns or to seek advice on managing your health. Community nurses provide care to patients in their homes, including wound care, palliative care, and other medical services;

• secondary care services: Hospitals and specialist services provide a wide range of medical treatments, including surgery, medical procedures, and specialist care for complex medical conditions. You can access them through a referral from a GP or other primary care provider;

• emergency care services: These services are provided by accident and emergency (A&E) departments, which are located in hospitals throughout the UK. You can access emergency medical treatment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you will be treated on a priority basis depending on the severity of your condition;

• mental health services: A range of healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and community mental health teams, provide free support for patients with mental health problems;

• maternity services: Midwives, obstetricians, and other healthcare professionals provide these services to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period, as well as to newborn babies;

• social care services: Patients who require additional support with their daily activities due to their illness, disability, or old age can get these services. They include home care, residential care, and support services for carers.

Overall, the NHS provides a comprehensive range of medical services to patients in the UK, ensuring that everyone has access to care when they need it.

NHS Prescription Charges and Free Prescriptions

While the NHS provides free medical care to all patients in the UK, there are some charges that they may need to pay for certain services, including prescription charges. Currently, the prescription charge in England is £9.65 per item, although some patients may be eligible for exemptions or reductions in this charge.

The following groups of patients are entitled to free prescriptions [3]:

• children under 16 years old;
• those aged 1618 and in full-time education;
• patients over 60 years old;
• women who are pregnant or have had a baby in the last year;
• individuals who have a specific medical condition and hold a valid medical exemption certificate;
• patients with income-based benefits & contribution-based benefits;
• those who have pension credits, universal credits, and tax credits;
• patients who have a valid war pension exemption certificate;
• low-income patients.

Patients who need to pay the prescription charge are eligible for a prepayment certificate that allows them to make a one-off payment for a certain period and receive as many prescriptions as they need during that time. The cost for a 3-month prepayment certificate is £31.25, while a 12-month certificate costs £111.60 [4]. Prescription charges and exemptions may differ slightly in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, so be sure to check the guidelines for your specific location.

Unlicensed Medicines and ‘Off-label’ Use

Off-label use is when a medication is used for a purpose that is not listed on its license. A doctor may prescribe the drug off-label when they believe it is the best option for the patient’s care, even though it may not have been specifically approved for that use.

In the UK, both unlicensed medicines and off-label use are legal, but they are subject to strict regulations and guidelines to ensure a patient’s safety. A doctor can prescribe an unlicensed medicine or use an off-label treatment when there is no other option available and if the benefits of the medication outweigh the potential risks.

Sometimes you may be able to access unlicensed or off-label medicines through the NHS, although this typically happens in exceptional cases in which there are no licensed treatments available and your condition is life-threatening or severely debilitating. In these cases, a doctor may need to apply for special permission to prescribe the drug, and you may need to give informed consent to the treatment.

The use of unlicensed medicines or off-label treatments may not be covered by insurance providers, as they are not part of the standard treatment guidelines. However, in some cases, insurance providers may cover the use of such treatments if they are deemed necessary for the patient’s care.

Insurance Challenges with Medication: What Prescriptions Are Not Covered by Insurance?

Some meds may not be covered by insurance due to a variety of factors, including the cost of the medication, its availability, and the lack of clinical evidence for its effectiveness. One major challenge with medication coverage is the cost of certain drugs. Some prescription meds can be extremely expensive, with prices running into thousands of pounds per year. In these cases, insurance providers may not cover the full cost of the medication, leaving patients to foot the bill themselves.

Another factor that can affect medication coverage is drug availability. Some meds may not be widely available in the UK or may only be available through specialized clinics or hospitals. Insurance providers may not cover the cost of these medications if they are not available through the standard healthcare system.

Additionally, some medications may not be covered by insurance due to a lack of clinical evidence for their effectiveness. Insurance providers typically rely on clinical evidence to determine which meds are covered and to what extent. If there is insufficient evidence to support the use of a particular drug, insurance providers may not cover it.

Which Medicines Can I Buy Without a Prescription?

In the UK, you can buy some meds without a prescription. These are commonly referred to as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and can be bought from pharmacies, supermarkets, and other retail outlets. Some common OTC medications are painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen, antihistamine, cough and cold medicines, antacids for heartburn and indigestion, and topical creams and ointments for skin conditions [5].

Besides, eugeroics such as modafinil, a medication used to treat sleep disorders & boost cognition, are not available without a prescription in the UK. It’s a prescription-only medication and must be obtained through a licensed physician after a consultation. However, most people are eager to know how to get modafinil in the UK. You can buy it online with no prescription and have it shipped to your UK address without any problem. However, be sure to order from a legit vendor with a proven track record to avoid getting counterfeit pills.

Even though these pills can be purchased without a prescription, you should use them with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. You should always read the instructions, follow the recommended dosage, and seek medical advice if you are unsure whether a particular medication is suitable for you.


Overall, the UK healthcare system is designed to provide affordable and accessible healthcare to all residents. While there may be insurance challenges and limitations, the NHS remains a valuable resource for those in need of medical care.

You should take advantage of the services and support available to you while taking personal responsibility for your health and well-being. With the right knowledge, resources, and support, you can navigate the UK healthcare system and receive the care you need to live a healthy and fulfilling life.


  1. The Birth of the NHS. Retrieved: April 16, 2023.
  2. What Is the NHS, and What Does It Do? Retrieved: April 16, 2023.
  3. Free NHS Prescriptions. Retrieved: April 16, 2023.
  4. NHS Prescription Charges. Retrieved: April 16, 2023.
  5. Medicines Information. Retrieved: April 16, 2023.

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