Patients pay double for medicines at pharmacy
Patients are paying double the original cost of prescription drugs due to the large mark-ups at pharmacies.
The chemists have been urged to cut profit margins that they earn on medicines which is punishing both private patients and the State. Retail pharmacy prices here are among the highest in the EU. Trinity College Dublin-based expert in pharmacy and the price of medicines Prof Michael Barry called for reductions in the fees charged by retail pharmacists.
Prof Barry explained that taxpayers are paying as much in dispensing fees to pharmacists as they are for medicines themselves. The expert in the cost of medicines gave an example of someone buying a common drug, like a statin.
Consumers will be charged €150 for the drug for a course of it for a year. But the pharmacy fee will cost them the same again, taking the total to €300 over a year. People who buy medicines, because they do not have a medical card, end up paying the pharmacist a dispensing fee and a mark-up on the ingredient cost of 50pc, but it is often higher.
"An important point which is of relevance to patients who pay for their medications is that for some drugs the cost of the drug only accounts for a fraction of what they pay out of pocket in their pharmacy," he said.
Fees paid to pharmacists now account for 28pc of the total expenditure under the State's General Medical Services (GMS) scheme, he said. This covers drug costs on medical cards, the drugs payment scheme and the long-term illness scheme.
The Irish Pharmacy Union defended its fees, saying pharmacies have to cover the cost of dispensing medicines and the cost of the professional review carried out by the pharmacist.