Switch to generic drugs fails to bring expected savings for HSE
THE number of generic drugs prescribed under the State's medical schemes have doubled but the expected savings for the taxpayer have failed to materialise.
The prices for non-branded drugs were expected to be cheaper – but have instead tended to mirror those of the well-known products and remain higher than in other EU states.
ESRI researcher Paul Gorecki said the swap to generic drugs had so far failed to deliver the expected savings.
He said the ESRI's research in the area showed there were many ways to trigger more competition and lower prices.
He urged more information to be made available on prices and dispensing fees.
Pharmacists, he said, should be free to advertise and establish pharmacies on the internet, sponsored by the HSE.
"If you are on a maintenance therapy you could have your drugs mailed out to you every month or every two months," he said.
"There are lots of ways to get more competition and lower prices at the retail level."
The figures reveal a massive increase in the use of generic pharmaceuticals between 2010 and 2012.
On the State's general medical scheme, the use of generic drugs doubled to 50pc.
The State's bill on drugs and payments to pharmacists stood at around €1.9bn in 2011 – around 13pc of total spend on public health.
Mr Gorecki said change was on the way with the Health Pricing and Medical Goods Act later this year, which will allow pharmacists to select a lower-priced drug than that prescribed for by a doctor, if the drugs have similar effects.
Under this new law, certain drugs are expected to be listed as interchangeable and it is expected generic prices will fall by 20pc.
He said a public information programme would be needed to reassure and explain it to people.