Medicines cost six times more in Ireland

A price comparison of some of the most commonly prescribed medicines shows Irish patients pay up to six times more than our overseas neighbours.

The study, which looked at multiple medication use in older adults and opportunities for cost savings in the spend on drugs, found that €152m could have been saved annually by:

* Using a system of reference pricing (setting one price for groups of similar medicines);

* Generic prescribing (prescribing copies of the original medicine no longer protected by patent).

One of the report’s authors, Prof Kathleen Bennett, said Irish prices were substantially higher than their British counterparts.

“For example, two of the 10 most commonly prescribed medicines were six times more expensive in Ireland. These included omeprazole and lansoprezol, two drugs used to treat conditions caused by excess stomach acid.”

Prof Bennett said that when the survey was carried out in 2010, omeprazole cost the equivalent of €4.08 in Britain but was €25 in Ireland. Lansoprezol was €3.15 in Britain, while the Irish price was €18.70.

Prof Bennett said Irish prices have since come down and omeprazole can now be bought here for €7.11 while lansoprezol can be purchased here for €11. This is still almost four times more than the British price.

The figures emerged in a report prepared using data from the first wave of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, which involves 8,175 people aged 50 and over living in Ireland.

The report, entitled “Polypharmacy in adults over 50 in Ireland: Opportunities for cost saving and improved healthcare”, found that polypharmacy, the regular use of five or more medicines, is common in older people in Ireland (one in three aged over 65) and becomes more common with advancing years.

The findings highlight the need for frequent medication reviews in older adults at a time when poly-pharmacy accounts for over half of the annual costs of prescribing to the population aged 50 and over.

In Ireland, only 20% of prescribed medicines are generic. Prof Bennett said the low use was due to a factors including resistance from drug companies and pharmacists and patients “not wanting to feel they were being prescribed second best”.

To read the report, go to l

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