Cheaper alternatives available for more medicines
ALMOST 40 medicines - ranging from treatments for blood pressure to insomnia - are now cheaper for patients following the introduction of a drug cost control measure.
The system, known as reference pricing, has meant the setting of a common State reimbursement price, or reference price, for a group of interchangeable medicines that can be used by patients to treat the same condition.
It started in November 2013 and is still being phased in. It mostly involves cheaper generic or off-patent medicines.
A reference price means no matter what version of the medicine a patient takes, the HSE will only pay the pharmacist that amount.
Doctors still have the power to prescribe a particular brand and can state "do not substitute".
In those situations the patient does not have to pay the difference.
Pharmacists who dispense the drugs to private patients, charge a dispensing fee of €3.50 to €5 for each prescription.
In some cases, the price is 70pc cheaper than before.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed yesterday that he would press ahead with efforts to secure a reduction in the price of several patented drugs before the current deal on drugs' costs with pharmaceutical companies runs out in nine months.
He said it was his intention to either reduce the price paid for on-patent drugs, either by agreement or legislation.
The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association said the deal had no provision for a mid-term review of prices.
However, Mr Varadkar said: "We need to make these savings. They are written into the HSE budget for the year. We need to find the money to pay for new medicines. We set aside €30m for curative drugs for Hepatitis C and another €17m for cancer medicines this year. It has to be affordable."