Patients skipping medicines over prescription charge
A majority of patients who admitted they were not taking all the drugs they were prescribed blamed the cost of the charge for medical card holders, according to new study.
A study, led by GP Dr Brendan O'Shea, found this was particularly the case for patients on four or more drugs.
The study pointed out that the medical card system supplies medicines to around half the Irish population.
The current prescription charge is €2.50 per item up to a maximum of €25 per month per family.
Before 2010 these medicines were provided free of charge.
To date, there is limited knowledge on how this has impacted on Irish medical card patients' use of prescribed medications, a conference of 300 European GPs, hosted by the Irish College of General Practitioners, was told.
This study sought to examine how these patients reacted to those changes "and to explore the reasoning behind their actions".
All medical card patients over the age of 18 who presented to a semi-rural practice in Co Wicklow over three weeks were invited to take part in the study.
There were 104 valid completed surveys returned. The majority of patients (82pc) reported that they were fully compliant with their prescribed mediation.
"In those patients who did not always take their medicines as prescribed, the prescription charge was reported as a factor in 55.8pc of cases.
"This increased to 73.3pc for those patients on four or more medications. There was no specific class of medications that patients chose not to purchase.
"A total of 65.6pc of patients did not discuss the changes in their medication use with their doctor."
The authors said: "The prescription charge was cited by a majority of those patients who were not fully compliant with their medication as the reason for not purchasing or changing the way that they took it. This was especially the case for those patients on four or more medications."
The Government had promised before the last election to get rid of the prescription charge but instead ended up increasing it.
It is now built into the revenue generated by the Health Service Executive every year and is unlikely to be abandoned as more medical card holders get used to paying it.