PHARMACISTS want a greater range of medicines to be available without a prescription.
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said in its pre-Budget submission that such a move would bring economic benefits.
"More should be done to empower patients to take care of their own health in a safe, convenient and cost-effective manner.
"This would entail making a much greater range of medicines available without prescription from pharmacists, particularly those medicines with long-established safety profiles, many of which are available without prescription in other jurisdictions," IPU president Rory O'Donnell said.
He argued that significant savings could be generated in Ireland "if we moved towards a pharmacy-based system rather than an over reliance on a GP-based system".
The IPU said also that savings could be made if pharmacists were to become more active in chronic disease management and health screening.
"Patients and consumers want to actively manage their own health and are taking greater individual responsibility for their healthcare and health choices."
A recent IPU survey found that 91pc of pharmacists said that the levels of general healthcare reliance on their service has grown during the recession.
In 2011, there were nearly 85 million visits to community pharmacy outlets or 19 visits per annum per man, woman and child in the State.
Meanwhile, Mr O'Donnell said the Government needed to address business costs.
In addition to high rental costs, Mr O'Donnell said that pharmacists were particularly concerned about exorbitant local charges, commercial rates and excessive energy costs, which are having a devastating effect on their businesses.
"In the past 10 years, rates have increased by 47pc, well in excess of inflation," he said.
He said that this year's Budget needs to recognise the role that pharmacists play in contributing to an effective and efficient healthcare system that can bring significant savings to the State during these "turbulent" economic times.
"The costs and other burdens that are imposed on retail pharmacy businesses, together with the burdensome regulatory environment, are key issues that need to be urgently addressed to secure the future of this highly important sector," Mr O'Donnell said.
The submission said that: "The IPU believes that developing the role of the pharmacist will deliver better patient outcomes, as well as generating efficiencies and savings."
It also said that the proposal by the Government to get companies to pay a higher share of employees' sick pay should be abandoned, because it would lead to further cost pressures on pharmacies.