Martin Lewis shares the key way Britons can slash costs when buying medicine

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Martin Lewis discusses comparing PL codes on packaging

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On the Ask Martin segment on Nihal Arthanayake’s BBC Radio 5 Live programme this afternoon, the money saving expert gave advice on how Britons can save money when buying pain killers. He said: “We all know that when you’re buying pharmaceuticals – painkillers or cold and flu or hay fever tablets – we look for the active ingredients.

“The active ingredient is what does the stuff so everything else around it might affect whether it has a sugar coating, and if you have allergies you need to be careful but it’s all irrelevant.

“What people don’t know is that on the side of pharmaceutical packets there is a product code, a PL code which is a long number.

“If you look at that code and you can find two identical products – one own brand, and the other branded – then it isn’t just the active ingredient that is the same, everything is the same.

“If they have identical PL codes, it’s the same tablet.

“Unlike own brands when we’re guessing, we know it’s the same because of the PL codes.”

PL codes are a unique licence number given exclusively to a particular drug made by a particular manufacturer.

To find the PL code, people can look at the back of the packaging.

He explained that people should use this before spending more on a branded product because it will do the exact same as an own brand.

He told Mr Arthanayake that when brands advertise and promote their products differently for targeting specific areas such as neck pain, or back pain, or period pain – and they charge more because of this, – people should not be fooled.

He said: “They all have same PL codes, even the period ones too.

“So, what they are actually doing is simply having targeted packaging for the same medicine.

“Now I don’t think that it should be allowed, but it is.

“One of my problems for it is that when you have back pains and you think you need a painkiller, you’ll go into the shop and look for the branded product which says targeted at back pain.

“You then say to yourself ‘I better get that because it’s better for back pain’.

“But when you realise that they are all the same – the migraine one, the backpain one, the period one – it shifts you.

“It’s not targeted at back pain; it is a way to shift us from buying the own brand one to the more expensive branded one.

“You will look at the PL codes and realise it’s the same painkiller” regardless of what specific area it says it targets.

With the rising cost of living, and energy bills – coupled with inflation, this tip may be able to save people some money that is better used elsewhere.

Ask Martin airs Wednesday’s at 1:30pm on BBC Radio 5 Live.

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