A short rant about overpriced branded medication

This week I got a cold sore.


I made a special trip to Wilko for cold sore cream because of this:

overpriced branded medication

Yep, that’s two IDENTICAL cold sore creams as far as I can see. The Wilko own brand is £1. The branded version is £5. That’s FIVE TIMES the price. (Note that the Zovirax version doesn’t have a price per 1kg – perhaps it wouldn’t fit on the tag?)

There is no obvious difference between them, they both contain the same amount of the same active ingredient and they both do the same job.

So WHY??

Overpriced branded medication is something that has always wound me up. It just feels wrong on so many levels. Not only is it a total rip off generally, but it feels like you’re being ripped off when you feel at your most vulnerable. (Me going shopping with Belle when she is sad.)

Looking at the myriad different examples on the shelf it’s hard to believe that it even EXISTS as an industry. It’s so obviously just the same product sold in ridiculously over the top packaging, and yet people MUST be falling for it, or there wouldn’t be a market. It makes me cross to think of all of these big brands chuckling to themselves while innocent people are coughing and spluttering over their remedies.

Picture yourself with a bad cold. You’re trying to get through the day, you’re not thinking straight, you just want anything that might make you feel better, so when you see words like MAX STRENGTH you’re in.

Are branded cold remedies worth the extra?

You see? Look how that cartoon hand cradles the mug – it feels better already! Now let’s have a look at the packet and see what’s actually in it – paracetamol and decongestant for £3.50.

Oh but wait a minute…

Are branded cold remedies worth the extra?


WHY?? Why would you buy something for £3.50 that you could buy for 65p just by reaching about 30cm to the right?? It doesn’t make sense.

If you’re feeling super bad you can take things to the next level, with a MAX ALL IN 1 – yep that’s right, ALL YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED IN ONE SACHET. Plus it has a metallic box, so you know it means business. I mean sure, it’s exactly the same as the last one with some added guaifenesin, but a snap at £5.50!

Are branded cold remedies worth the extra?

This is the unbranded version, which appears to be exactly the same apart from it’s only £1.85 and you get 25% more sachets.

But does it have a shiny metallic packet? No it does not, so there you go.

Are branded cold remedies worth the extra?

I get ESPECIALLY cross about products that appear to baffle us with jargon, or that want us think that we’re buying a product designed to target a specific condition.

Like these:

What is ibuprofen lysine?

You’re got your period, you’re feeling vulnerable, you’re in pain – of COURSE you want the painkiller that says it targets period pain!

Except it doesn’t. Ibuprofen works by blocking enzymes everywhere in the body which help to make chemicals called prostaglandins. Less prostaglandin means less pain and inflammation. That’s it.

So ibuprofen works exactly the same way whether you have back ache, a head ache or period pain. There ISN’T an ibuprofen that thinks ‘ooh, period pain you say? Let’s not bother with that boring ‘absorption into the bloodstream’ stage, let’s get straight to that womb!’

Let’s take a closer look shall we?

What is ibuprofen lysine?

342mg of ibuprofen lysine you say? Well that sounds important doesn’t it? It’s not even a round number, which is all very clinical and impressive. It’s a bit like when you see a headline on Buzzfeed that reads ’27 things you must see in Bulgaria’ – you really BELIEVE that those are THE 27 things don’t you?

Normally ibuprofen comes in 200mg doses so this must be the good stuff right?

Let’s turn the packet over and see shall we?

What is ibuprofen lysine?

‘Each film-coated tablet contains: 200mg ibuprofen (as ibuprofen lysine)’


So hang on, it’s basically the same as this?

What is ibuprofen lysine?

Except you actually get 16 in this packet, not a paltry EIGHT like the Feminax. So 16 ibuprofen for 25p or 16 ibuprofen for £5? Hang on, let me think about that…

It’s NOT OKAY. It’s a trick. Misleading marketing to try to make you believe you’re getting something special when you’re not.

(I’ve done a bit of research and ibuprofen as ibuprofen lysine CAN absorb slightly more quickly than other forms, so it might reduce the pain a bit sooner, but it will ultimately do the same thing and definitely cannot TARGET anything any more than any other form of ibuprofen. Is that worth paying TWENTY TIMES MORE FOR??)

So that’s my rant for the day.

How do you feel about overpriced medications? Would you be mislead by ‘342mg of ibuprofen lysine’? Do you find yourself, riddled with cold, buying expensive Lemsip in the desperate hope that it will be more effective than just knocking back a couple of cheap paracetamol?

Leave a comment and let me know.




  1. 2 May, 2018 / 12:05 pm

    Oh yes this drives me mad! Also when pharmacists have to prescribe medicine on the NHS for the higher price when they’re making cuts in other vital areas! I just buy the cheap paracetamol and ibuprofen for period pain now but when I was a teen I always used to fall for Feminax (persuaded by teen mags no doubt!). It did used to make me laugh when boys would ask if I had something for a headache and I’d give them Feminax though! It actually works for males too- who knew? ;-) x

    • Jo Middleton
      2 May, 2018 / 1:21 pm

      Haha! Yes, you can’t be a boy and take PINK period medicine :-D

  2. 2 May, 2018 / 3:05 pm

    I think misleading is on it’s age. I feel the same way about overpricing issue of medications. It needs to be resolved.

  3. 2 May, 2018 / 7:19 pm

    I posted about the same thing a while back, seems it annoys us all!

  4. Anneka Avery
    2 May, 2018 / 7:26 pm

    Totally with you on this it’s an absolute joke! I no longer buy any branded names, own brands only! They do the same as you have so wonderfully shown us all in your brilliant post! Thank you!

  5. Julie t
    2 May, 2018 / 8:03 pm

    You are so right to bring this to anybody’s attention who wasn’t already aware of it. It’s a con, pure and simple. I love your ‘rants’ – we need someone to tell the REAL story

  6. Julia
    2 May, 2018 / 11:03 pm

    Yes! Asda’s own decongestant tablets are stronger and far cheaper than Sudafed, I swear by them. Off-brand all the way!

  7. ellie spider
    3 May, 2018 / 9:36 am

    I lived in the USA for a year and soon learnt that if you check the active ingredients you can pretty much guarantee your getting the same product at half the price or less- in the USA they have different advertising rules and the own branded products will say ‘same active ingredient as Tylenol’ or similar it’s crazy they can get away with it also I thought neurophen actually got fined a few yrs ago for saying they had targeted pain killers? I’m sure they were given a bollocking over false advertising (they had migraine back pain period pain etc versions which were all exactly the same product but in different packaging

  8. Keri
    3 May, 2018 / 12:11 pm

    Im with you on this one Jo, it’s ridiculous. I’m forever trying to convince my husband to go for own-brand medications when he needs something. Especially paracetamol- he’s convinced branded, ridiculously over priced ones, are better. *rolls eyes*

  9. 7 May, 2018 / 10:05 pm

    Oh my gosh, I couldn’t agree with you more! People think that by going for a known brand they’re getting a better product, when that’s not true at all!

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