Pharmacists face growing pressure to slash prices
PHARMACISTS are under pressure to slash the price of drugs after manufacturers knocked 40pc off 300 popular medicines.
It means the factory price of a medicine such as Lipsostat, used by 14,000 people with cardiovascular disease every month, plummets from €24 to €14.40 for a packet of 28 tablets.
If pharmacists impose a profit mark-up of no more than 20pc and a €5 dispensing fee, the customer should not pay more than €24.01 for Lipsostat.
The current retail price for the drug varies. Based on a 20pc mark-up, the price is about €35, but that figure can be even higher as some pharmacists charge up to a 50pc mark-up.
But it has emerged pharmacists are not obliged to pass on the new cuts.
Anyone who wants to find out if their medicine has been reduced can do so by logging on to www.checkthelist.ie or ringing lo-call 1890 876700.
Even though pharmacists can buy the drug cheaper, they are under no obligation to pass on the saving -- and can charge "top-up" fees higher than 20pc.
A spokesperson for the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said: "When pharmaceutical manufacturers reduced prices in the past, these reductions were passed on to the public."
The reduction in the factory price of medicines is being introduced by the Irish Pharmaceutical Health Care Association (IPHA), which represents the makers of branded drugs.
Brian Murphy, IPHA director of commercial affairs, said it followed negotiations with Health Minister Mary Harney and her officials who wanted an immediate saving in the State's drugs bill of €1.7bn.
He said the customer should see a saving of €3-€4 every time their drugs were dispensed.
The cuts could reduce the state bill for off-patent drugs for medical card holders and people on other state drugs schemes by €94m this year.
A fresh pricing agreement between the State and drugs companies making branded medicines will come into effect in March 2012.
From the beginning of the year, private patients with large bills pay a maximum of €120 a month out of their own pockets and the State pays the rest.
Liz Hoctor, president of the IPU, said it welcomed the cuts in prices from manufacturers.