Over-the-counter drugs move will mean big savings
TREATMENTS for migraine, stomach problems, hay fever, cold sores and nail infections will be made over-the-counter, meaning a patient will be able to bypass an expensive visit to their GP.
The 34 products, which are currently prescription-only, will be made available over-the-counter in the coming months following a process which has been started by the country's medicines' watchdog.
Although the price of the medicines is unlikely to fall, the savings will be enjoyed by patients who no longer have to pay an average of €60 a visit to their GP to get a prescription written.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) , formerly the Irish Medicines Board (IMB), published a list of 12 active substances contained in products currently classified as prescription-only medicines. It said these could be safely reclassified and switched to over-the-counter sale.
This could result in a total of 34 medicines being sold through pharmacies without prescription. The list includes medicines for the treatment of migraine, acid-reflux symptoms, hay fever, cold sores, muscle pain and inflammation, fungal skin and nail infections and other inflammatory skin conditions.
"The HPRA is now requesting expressions of interest from pharmaceutical companies who are the marketing authorisation holders (MAH) for these medicines to apply to reclassify their medicines," said a spokeswoman.
The list includes Azelastine/ Azelastine Hydrochloride for ophthalmic use to treat seasonal allergic rhinitis and non-seasonal (perennial) allergic conjunctivitis.
Also included is Diclofenac Salts for local symptomatic relief of pain and inflammation in the trauma of the tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints and in localised forms of soft tissue rheumatism.
Another substance is Felbinac, used for local symptomatic relief of pain and inflammation in the trauma of the tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints and in localised forms of soft tissue rheumatism.
Others include the treatment of herpes simplex virus infections of the lips and face and Sumatriptan which is taken for the acute relief of migraine attacks.
Kathy Maher of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said: "This is a landmark move to improving public health. Pharmacies are the most accessible part of the healthcare system and this announcement is a step towards utilising pharmacists' knowledge and expertise, for the benefit of the patient.
"This is another step in meeting the Government's own healthcare strategy of treating patients in a community setting.