Pharmacy faces HSE probe over payments
The country's biggest pharmacy chain is under investigation for claims that it is profiteering from a drug-dispensing scheme for elderly and other vulnerable medical card holders.
Lloyds pharmacy confirmed last night that the HSE is examining its use of the scheme which could boost its income by nearly €600 a year for some patients.
Under the My Med scheme, pharmacies can dispense drugs in compartmentalised trays which contain a weekly supply with each set of daily medications in separate sections in order to make it easier and safer for a patient such as an elderly person to take them.
The pharmacy is paid a fee of around €5 by the HSE and another €3.27 for each weekly tray for the rest of the month's supply.
A medical card patient on five medication scripts would generate dispensing fees of €74.05 per month for the pharmacist in this scheme compared to €25 if the medications were given as part of a normal month's supply - a increase of 66pc.
The HSE has alleged that Lloyds is committing fraud and breach of contract by giving the patient four trays in one visit instead of on a phased basis over a month. Lloyds charges for each individual tray, the RTE Investigations Unit revealed.
A spokesman for Lloyds said: "We strongly refute the allegations relating to our phased dispensing service and have communicated this to the HSE. We fully adhere to the HSE's own phased dispensing guidelines, agreements and processes. That the HSE is now interpreting these differently runs contrary to the clear understanding of the pharmacy community."
An internal newsletter found Lloyds has set targets for its stores and highlights how staff visited local day-care centres to sign up patients.
It operates a series of targets and penalties for each store operating the scheme and warns that it is better to hit targets early to make "a real dent on your overall profitability for the year".
It detailed how one staff member got a stand in a local bank and had a "captive audience" to whom she promoted the service.
A spokesman for Lloyds said its "staff incentive structures are currently under review".
The allegations were raised by an internal whistleblower. The HSE confirmed that it is in the process of carrying out investigations in relation to certain claims submitted for payment.
While the investigation is still ongoing it will take any action it deems necessary depending on the outcome.
Pharmacists which submit invoices to the HSE under the scheme monthly need to state the reasons why the patient is getting their medications on a phased basis.
Darragh O'Loughlin of the Irish Pharmacy Union said last night that Lloyds is not a member. He said no other pharmacy is under investigation to his knowledge for any alleged fraud.
It was important that pharmacists operated the scheme which is very beneficial to some patients, to the highest standards and justified its use in each particular case.
"The facility to support patients on a weekly basis to get their medication in this way is a great facility and it is important we do not lose sight of that," he added.