Has anyone seen this meme that has been doing social networks in recent months:

“This (Tesco) paracetamol is 25p, but it’s as low as 16p in Home Bargains. When you choose to get paracetamol for ‘free’ from the pharmacist or GP it actually costs the taxpayer & NHS about £10. Help save the NHS and choose to refuse free paracetamol when you can.”

It’s almost always accompanied by a holier-than-thou comment by a poster who is appalled by this apparent abuse, a poster who does not struggle to pay for her or his own medicinal expenses. Now I am not for one moment suggesting that it’s a good idea to get paracetamol prescribed by one’s GP but then many people pay for prescriptions and, I would hazard a guess, would prefer to pay the 16p cost of packet instead of the £8.60 the prescription will cost. But this dig is not aimed at ordinary folk: it’s a pop about people who do not, for one reason or another, pay for their prescriptions.

Now, I did not realise that you could get paracetamol on prescription but if you are bumping along the bottom, with all your money gone long before your next pay day (many people earn very low wages and some earn none at all) and it is just possible that even 16p will be too much for some, perhaps only for a limited time, but it is possible. I have for many years come across people through my professional life who have had to choose between eating and heating, never mind paying for pain relief. This appears to be a class-based dig.

In any event, paracetamol is not always the best medicine to use given its limited function. It provides pain relief but only so much. Codeine, Naproxen and Tramadol it ain’t and all of these are available on prescription, free to those who do not have to pay.

It’s a non story since I’ll wager that few GPs prescribe paracetamol to patients but even if they do, it’s surely a nonsense that pharmacists mark up the price by about £10. Another non story that’s on the internet which lacks some of the facts and all of the possible arguments.