A 'special' is a specially prepared formulation prescribed to meet an individual clinical need of a patient, where there is currently no licensed version. For example, a particular strength, a preservative-free formulation or a particular product presentation or form.

Specials should only be prescribed if there is no licensed alternative that is equivalent. If there is a licensed alternative a special should not be prescribed or dispensed. Specials represent only a small percentage of all prescriptions.

All unlicensed specials can be obtained from a specials manufacturer or manufactured by the contractor or 3rd Party (Section 10 exemption of the Medicines Act 1968). However the payment arrangements for 'listed' and 'non-listed' unlicensed specials are slightly different. This also includes imported products.

The DoH has introduced tariffs for unlicensed specials for England, Wales and Scotland. There are presently no changes in the remuneration of specials in Northern Ireland.