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Monday 11 December 2017

‘Competing’ pharmacists charge up to double for same medicine: survey

Eilish O’Regan

PRIVATE patients are being charged double the price for the same drug depending on what pharmacy they go to, a new survey has revealed.

The survey shows that price gaps for some drugs can vary from 37pc to 199pc in different outlets, depending on the mark-up and dispensing fee added on by the pharmacist.

The findings from the National Consumer Agency (NCA), based on a survey of 45 pharmacies, showed:

- The largest percentage variation in price for an individual product within a local area was for Losec Mups 20mg ,a medicine commonly used to treat stomach ulcers.

The difference in price in Waterford was found to be 122pc, with prices ranging from €22.43 to €49.69.

- The second highest percentage price variation within an area was for the product Zoton Fastab Tabs 30mg ,used to treat patients with stomach complaints. In Dublin, prices ranged from €19.96 to €42.33, a difference of 112pc.

- In Dublin, across the 39 products surveyed, the minimum price difference for any individual medicine was 34pc, with the average gap at 44pc.

- Some pharmacists apply a standard  dispensing fee while others vary the cost,depending on the price of the medicine.Other pharmacists do not add any fee

The agency’s chief executive, Karen O’ Leary said:"Our survey shows that there are huge differences in the cost of individual prescription medicines in local areas.Many private customers may not be aware of these price differentials.

“We would urge consumers, especially those on long-term medication and who do not meet the criteria for the various State-funded drug schemes, to compare the costs of prescription medicines in  their local area before choosing a pharmacy.

Consumers can compare prices by simply visiting or phoning pharmacies and requesting that pharmacy’s price for the prescription required.”

She added:”In the course of our study some pharmacists indicated that in some circumstances, prices could be reduced. For example, some pharmacies said they reduce the overall cost for their customers by not applying the dispensing fee, or applying just one dispensing fee on a number of prescribed products

“ We would advise consumers to speak to their pharmacist to see if these reductions are available, particularly if they are making regular purchases.”

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