Scope for more price cuts on our medicines
Published 22/06/2015 | 02:30
This summer, large numbers of holidaymakers are set to combine a break with an opportunity to fill a prescription for a couple of months' supply of medicines.
They do it because we still pay multiples of what is paid by families in the North and in the likes of Spain.
Prices here have undoubtedly come down. Figures from the Central Statistics Office show prescription prices down more than 3pc in the last year alone. Pharmacists and GPs have been encouraged by the State to substitute cheaper generic drugs for people as much as possible.
The Government has effectively capped what it will pay on State drugs schemes, and fierce competition is a feature of the retail pharmacy market.
But there can be little doubt that prices could certainly come down more, much more.
We are still paying nine to 10 times what is charged a few miles up the road in Northern Ireland, according to Shane O'Sullivan of cut-price pharmacy Healthwave, in Dublin.
Many of the reductions in prices here have benefited those who are part of a State scheme.
Mr O'Sullivan says the mark-ups (amount added on to the wholesale price by the pharmacist) on privately bought medicines vary from 0pc to 50pc.
The Irish Pharmacy Union would not say what mark-up its 1,600 members apply.
The move by Lloyds Pharmacy, the largest retail chemist chain in the State, to slash its prices on eight out of 10 medicines is welcome, but shows that there is scope for more reductions in the prices imposed on families.
Other chains, like Boots and McCabes, along with the smaller pharmacies, will now come under renewed pressure to reduce their prices.
All of this comes ahead of talks between the Department of Health and the pharmaceutical industry on further price cuts, as part of a new agreement on wholesale prices charged to the State.
The hope now for families is that the cost of essential medicines will continue to come crashing down.