Friday 13 December 2019

'This is about patient safety' - Taoiseach rules out restoration of Versatis patch funding

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has offered little comfort to those campaigning for a restoration of funding for pain-managing Versatis patches.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that the patches were licensed for one use only – the management of pain for people suffering from shingles. He acknowledged that doctors could legitimately prescribe them for some other conditions – but not to the extent currently happening in Ireland.

The Taoiseach said that the use per head of population was 10 times the level in Britain.

“This is not about money – it is about patient safety,” Mr Varadkar insisted.

He was responding to Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, who made an impassioned plea on behalf of those who were being denied access to what he described as the only comfort for many people in serious pain.

Mr Martin said RTÉ radio’s Joe Duffy had been the real patient advocate for this cause as thousands of people have called his show over the last fortnight. He criticised the cuts in medical card funding for the patches and also the problems with the drug refund scheme and rejected the Taoiseach’s arguments about the situation being driven by patient safety.

“Give people back their lives,” the Fianna Fáil leader said.

Mr Varadkar said he had discussed the matter in detail with Health Minister Simon Harris last week. He again insisted it was only licensed to be used for shingles pain - and no other illness and that controls were needed on prescriptions.

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