Tuesday 28 January 2020

Retail pharmacies to come under pressure to cut prices

Professor Michael Barry
Professor Michael Barry
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Retail pharmacists are set to come under renewed pressure to cut their prices with the expansion of a cut-price operator.

The move will see more people able to buy prescription medicines cheaper than they sell for in the North, in Spain and in Portugal.

Limerick-based Limitless Health is to open in Northern Cross in Dublin in mid-May, with owner Dáire Scanlon claiming that he can supply medicines 60pc cheaper than they sell for in retail pharmacies.

The development comes after a consultant clinical pharmacologist and expert on the prices of medicines called for a cut to the profit margins charged by retail pharmacists on privately-purchased medicines.

Prof Michael Barry said the margins being earned by pharmacists mean that private patients end up paying double the original cost of prescription drugs. The Trinity College Dublin-based academic questioned dispensing fees of between €3 and €5 per item, and mark-ups of 50pc of the ingredient cost.

Mr Scanlon said his operation would see private patients able to radically reduce the cost of filling a prescription. The operation delivers the medicines to homes at no extra cost, Mr Scanlon, a pharmacist, said.

Customers pay an annual subscription fee to Limitless Health.

They present their prescription to the pharmacist before their medication can be dispensed, either by calling to its Limerick premises, or by faxing or emailing it.

"We guarantee savings of 60pc, and up to 70pc in some cases for both branded and generic medicines."

Mr Scanlon said he charges €3.75 for a 28-day supply of Lipitor (Atorvastatin 10mg).

The popular cholesterol-reducing statin costs around €12 in a retail pharmacy, he said.

He said his operation was able to undercut conventional pharmacies because it does not charge dispensing fees or a mark-up, which is often 50pc in retail chemists.

Meanwhile, the operator of the only other cut-price pharmacy operation denied his decision to close a Galway outlet meant the model did not work.

Healthwave in Dundrum, Dublin, has decided to service its nationwide customer base from Dublin, as most of is customers have opted for home deliveries, Shane O'Sullivan said.

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