Tuesday 27 June 2017

Pharmacists keep 50pc profits as medicine costs fall

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

PHARMACISTS will pass on the cuts in factory drug prices to customers -- but they will still claim a 50pc profit from the sale of the medicines.

The manufacturers' price of 300 popular off-patent drugs fell by 40pc yesterday.

But while the amount patients will pay for the medicines in the pharmacy will be less, it will not be by as much as that quoted on the website www.checkthelist.ie, which has been set up as a guide for customers by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA).

The final prices quoted on the website -- once the wholesaler and pharmacist have been paid -- are based on a profit mark-up of 20pc.

However, the majority of pharmacists are still claiming a 50pc profit mark-up and are also adding a dispensing fee of around €2.50.

It means the cost of Lipostat tablets to treat cardiovascular disease, which is coming down in factory price from €24 to €14.40, will cost the retail customer around €26.26, once the wholesaler and pharmacist have been paid. This is in contrast to the €19.01 quoted on the website.

A spokesman for the IPHA said the final price was based on a 20pc mark-up the pharmacist gets from the Health Service Executive (HSE), from which it buys drugs for patients on the Drug Payment Scheme.

He said the association was urging customers to demand, from their pharmacist that the mark-up be no more than 20pc, a call echoed by Health Minister Mary Harney yesterday, who said a 50pc hike was unwarranted.

"These cuts will save taxpayers and consumers considerable amounts of money -- well over €90m for taxpayers and several millions for consumers when they pay for drugs themselves," she said.

"I would hope generic drugs manufacturers who have not yet decided to cut their prices for these drugs will follow."

Darragh O'Loughlin, a Galway pharmacist who is vice president of the Irish Pharmacy Union, said customers should be aware the retail price will be higher than quoted on the website.

Suffered

He added it was a matter for each pharmacist as to what to charge. But he added that he believed pharmacists could not afford to reduce their mark-up from 50pc to 20pc, in light of the financial hit they have suffered in the past year.

He warned that around 150 pharmacies are undergoing restructuring to avoid liquidation and many are in severe difficulties.

"We welcome the reduction in drugs prices, which are out of place with the rest of Europe," he said.

Pharmacists warned that they had short notice of the changes and had to ensure they had enough stocks so could be dispensing some medicines they purchased at higher prices for some time.

This means some customers who are filling prescriptions will pay the higher retail prices if they have been bought before yesterday.

Sandra Gannon, a spokeswoman for generic drug manufacturers, said they were in discussions with the Department of Health and could not comment on price reductions until they were finalised.

Ms Harney again signalled she would introduce reference pricing later this year. This will mean private patients will only be reimbursed for certain drugs the HSE believes are the most cost-effective.

Irish Independent

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