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Pregnant women forced to pay over €150 a month for ‘vital medication’ due to red tape

The drug Cariban is used to relieve the symptoms of severe nausea and vomiting 


Stock image: Getty Images

Stock image: Getty Images

Stock image: Getty Images

Pregnant women in Ireland are suffering due to the difficulty in accessing “vital medication”.

Fianna Fáil senator Lisa Chambers has highlighted the need to review the current system for how pregnant women access Cariban, an important medication for treating hyperemesis gravidarum – a pregnancy condition that causes severe nausea and vomiting.

In order to avail of the drug through the community drug scheme, it has to be prescribed by a consultant obstetrician. GPs can prescribe the drug, but there is no mechanism for reimbursement through the community drug scheme.

Pharmacist Laura Dowling said there continue to be barriers to accessing Cariban which can be costly for pregnant women.

“In the budget, the hyperemesis drug, Cariban would be reimbursable under the drug scheme. Someone with a medical card would get it for free, a woman with a drug payment scheme card would get it for €80 a month, otherwise it could be over €150 a month depending on how much the lady needs,” she said.

“This was welcomed by groups trying to get this reimbursed for some time for women. There are women suffering from very severe morning sickness and hyperemesis, this can really benefit them, it can save them hospital visits, GP visits, it can reduce their vomiting, and reduce the chances of them becoming dehydrated.

“But it’s very expensive, I've charged women over €100 sometimes to get it. These women could be out of work because they’re feeling so sick and then they'll have to pay for this medication.”

She said a woman will normally not visit a hospital consultant until well into the second trimester,  even though she may be suffering from morning sickness.

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“It’s going to be reimbursed; however, access is difficult. The person must see an obstetrician to get it reimbursed and you’ve to get into the public waiting list for that, it’s extra stress.

“Her GP can write the prescription, but if they do that before the hospital consultant does, they’ve to pay the full whack regardless of the medical card scheme or drug payment scheme.

“This means the woman must go to the hospital to see the consultant. The system is archaic, the consultant must hand write a form, scan it, and send it off to the Primary Care Reimbursement Services to get approval, it’s only approved for three months and then it has to be reapplied for then the whole process has to happen again.

“Women are still under the impression that they can get it, but they can’t. It’s a big, long process. It’s adding stress to an already stressful situation, a woman may not be able to keep down fluids or she might feel so sick that she can’t go about her day-to-day business,” she added.

Ms Chambers has now raised the issue with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and has asked that his department removes the red tape to give pregnant women easier access to the drug-free of charge.

She said the minister has now requested that his department carries out a review.

“It’s unthinkable that we could have women suffering who need this medication as they wait to see a consultant obstetrician. This normally wouldn’t happen until after a woman is 12 weeks pregnant,” said Ms Chambers.

“Having engaged with Minister Donnelly on this issue I’m grateful that he is aware of the issues and is requesting that his department undertake a swift review of the process.”

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