HSE plans to cut €6m bill for costly impotence drugs
Medical card holders will be given generic version of Cialis
High-cost erectile dysfunction drugs will no longer be covered by the HSE as the health service grapples with a worsening cash crisis.
In a bid to save the taxpayer millions of euro every year, the HSE will no longer meet the cost of the most expensive anti-impotence pills on the market, for medical card holders.
The Sunday Independent has confirmed that going forward, the Executive will fund only the lowest-priced anti-impotence pill that is available.
This signals the end of the taxpayer picking up the tab for the branded erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, which costs €37.75 for a standard pack of four.
Last year, the HSE spent €4.2m on medical card holders who had been prescribed Cialis, despite generic versions of erectile drugs being available at a much lower cost. At €1.1m, the bill for a significantly cheaper generic version of Viagra was almost one quarter of the spend on Cialis.
As a result of Pfizer's Viagra coming off patent in June 2013, a generic version of the drug costs €9 for a pack of four at pharmacists.
Male medical card holders are given a monthly allowance of four erectile dysfunction drugs from the HSE.
This latest cost-saving measure comes as the health service continues to explore various options to cut spending on drugs.
In June, the HSE was allocated an additional €500m on top of last year's budget allowance.
In a statement, the HSE said new guidelines on prescribing anti-impotence drugs would be in place "as soon as possible".
"This process is still under way. This is being expedited as efficiently as possible," it added.
The outcome of the decision means that no matter which drug is selected or prescribed, the HSE will only reimburse at the equivalent cost of the cheapest available option.
In total, some €6.1m was spent through the HSE's medical card system on dispensing erectile dysfunction drugs last year.
This represents a 19pc drop compared with spending figures for 2014, when the total outlay came to €7.5m. And it compares with a figure of €10.2m in 2011 and €9.4m in 2012.
The €1.1m spend by the HSE on the generic version of Viagra last year was 52pc down on the €2.4m outlay in 2014.
The largest spend on erectile dysfunction drugs for medical card holders last year was in the Cork North Lee area - totalling €250,915. This was followed by Limerick at €242,945 and Galway at €242,198. In north Dublin, the figure came in at €223,646.
Medicines prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction include Viagra, Levitra, Cialis and Sidena.
The drugs contain similar active ingredients such as sildenafil, vardenafil and tadalafil.