Thursday 18 January 2018

Boots admits its prices for some drugs will increase within days

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

A LEADING pharmacy chain has admitted that some of its medicine prices will rise because of changes to its drug pricing structure.

The Irish Independent has learned that Boots Ireland is ready to increase the price of many top-selling medications despite its claim to be lowering the cost.

The prices of many of the most commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure, thyroid and anti-anxiety medications are among those that will rise when the company changes its prices from Friday.

For example, low dosage aspirin used to thin the blood -- the most commonly prescribed medicine in Ireland -- is due to have its price raised from €8.36 to €9.24 a packet, an increase of 11pc. The price of Eltroxin (levothyroxine) used to treat thyroid problems -- the third most commonly prescribed medicine -- will rise from €7.69 to €8.79 per packet, a 14pc hike.

The cost of anti-anxiety drug diazepam (valium) will also rise from €8.27 to €9.18 a packet, an 11pc increase.

Director of Pharmacy Mary Rose Burke said the rise in some prices was because the chain has overhauled its pricing structure and replaced retail percentage markups with a €7 fixed fee on top of the wholesale price of the drug.

While that means substantial reductions for more expensive medications, the price of some low-cost drugs will rise.

Ms Burke said that the retailer's aim was not to be the cheapest but to make medicines fundamentally more affordable with quality service, and the changes would benefit customers to the tune of €1m a year.

The Irish Independent has repeatedly highlighted the high prices Boots charges for prescription drugs over the last year, coming out as the most expensive in a number of investigations.

But in a blaze of publicity this week the chain announced new lower prices claiming customers would save up to 25pc on the price of prescription medicines such as Lipitor, Plavix and Nexium.

Markups

The move does appear to have provoked a price war as Sam McCauley chemists yesterday also announced "huge savings" for their customers, by abolishing all markups and replacing them with a flat fee of €6.95 at their 26 chemist shops nationwide.

The price of prescription drugs still varies enormously despite this week's price cuts according to a survey by the Irish Independent.

For example, the price of a packet of cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin ranges from €18.06 at Tesco to €39.36 at Boots, while the branded variety Lipitor costs more at all pharmacy chains.

And the price of thyroid medication Eltroxin (levothyroxine) ranges from €5.76 at Unicare to €8.79 at Boots. for blood pressure drug Bisoprolol the price ranges from €5.89 at Tesco to €10.48 at Boots.

Irish Independent

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