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How price of prescriptions has come tumbling down, more cuts are on the way

patients are set to enjoy massive savings of up to 40pc on a range of commonly prescribed medicines from today.

Almost 300 well-known branded medicines will drop in price as a result of the health service's drugs and medicines bill which came into effect today under a new agreement with one of the pharmaceutical associations.

The scheme is expected to result in savings of about €94m in a full year.

The move is the conclusion of discussions between Health Minister Mary Harney, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (AMPI).

The agreement with the IPHA means price cuts of up to 40pc for a large number of drugs and medicines prescribed to patients.

The IPHA has established a website -- www.checkthelist.ie -- to allow patients to check if they will see a reduction in the cost of medicines.

The Minister said she was disappointed, however, that the AMPI had, "declined to offer any reductions in the price of the generic drugs and medicines that they supply at this time."



Savings

In response to a query from Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly, Ms Harney explained that the current agreement with AMPI expires on September 1 of this year and, "it is my firm intention to obtain savings from AMPI of at least an equivalent level to those secured from IPHA.

"Such an outcome would yield savings of approximately €27m in a full year."

The Minister added that she planned to introduce a system of reference pricing and generic drug substitution under the GMS and community drugs schemes.

"A working group, comprising officials from my Department and the HSE and chaired by Mr Mark Moran, is examining options to progress this initiative".

This scheme would encourage greater use of cheaper generic alternatives and lead to further savings in the State's drugs bill.

"I expect to see significant progress on this in 2010, including the identification and implementation of the legislative and administrative changes required to give it effect."



Ceiling

The minister has already announced plans to introduce a 50cent charge per prescription item under the GMS and Long Term Illness schemes with effect from April 1 of this year, subject to a monthly ceiling of €10 per family.

She said she hoped this would both address rising costs and "influence to some degree demand and prescribing patterns".

csheehy@herald.ie


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