INHALERS to treat asthma cost up to four times as much here as they do in the North.
The Asthma Society of Ireland warned that nearly half a million people suffer from the condition here, but many are forced to ration their medications or travel abroad to buy them because of the high costs.
One consumer said she was quoted €10.48 for a Ventolin inhaler at Boots in Dublin or €31.44 for the three she needed to buy.
But at Boots in Newry, she was quoted just stg £6.75 (€7.94) for three Ventolin inhalers.
Although the price of one inhaler in Northern Ireland was stg £5 (€5.88), there was a significant discount for purchasing three together – but this kind of saving was not available here.
That meant this life-long medication worked out up to four times more expensive in the Republic.
"There must be thousands of people across the country who are really hit by this cost," said the householder who needs to purchase them every month for her two sons.
The Irish Independent verified all the prices quoted with Boots. Asthma Society advocacy co-ordinator Niamh Kelly said it was very concerned that the cost of medication was proving a barrier to asthma treatment.
"Every day, we speak to people who are rationing their inhalers, purchasing asthma medication abroad, or foregoing their medication altogether because they simply can't afford the high cost of their drugs."
Asthma is a chronic condition and most sufferers required life-long treatment, but the lack of affordable medication led to poor control.
"The financial cost of poor asthma control is passed on to the State, with more people needing emergency and hospital care; however, the real cost is borne by people with asthma who are unable to carry out everyday tasks due to breathlessness," she said.
The Asthma Society made a pre-Budget submission calling for free health services for asthma sufferers based on international best practice as this would actually reduce the high costs associated with emergency care and lost productivity.
Boots said that in the Republic, the list price of prescription medicine was set by agreement between the pharmaceutical industry and the Department of Health.
"This is the case in all countries in the EU and means that the price of prescription medicines varies from country to country," it said in a statement.