Around one in 10 non-medical card holders are cutting back on vital medicine because of the recession, a new study has found.
While 11% are not taking what the doctor ordered, 14% said they could no longer even afford to visit one, according to the state’s pharmacists.
Yesterday representatives of the country’s 1,900 chemists passed a vote of no confidence in the Government’s health policies at their annual conference in Waterford.
The Irish Pharmacy Union demanded its members be allowed to offer cash-strapped patients cheaper alternatives to ensure their health does not suffer.
Liz Hoctor, IPU President, said: “We’re noticing that patients are opting to reduce the frequency with which they take prescribed medicines – even though the effectiveness of prescription medicines can be reduced by such changes.
“For example, a patient may have been prescribed medicines to take on a daily basis and they may start taking them every second day, to try to make the medicine last longer.
“However, a patient’s health is likely to suffer in the long term by doing this. It would be helpful to patients if I could offer my patients a cheaper generic alternative, where it is safe and appropriate to do so.”
Ms Hoctor said patients not taking their medicines as prescribed were less likely to recover from their illness.
The union also said giving cheaper alternatives could save the taxpayer around €30m a year.
Yesterday Ms Hoctor claimed the Government’s health policies had “manifestly” failed and urged a fundamental review of health strategy after members passed a vote of no confidence in the state’s health policies.
Pharmacists, said Ms Hoctor, were now fearing a wave of cuts being imposed on the sector by the Government that could lead to up to 5,000 job losses across the country and increased problems for patients trying to get access to medicines.
Other issues discussed at the weekend meeting included free diabetes screening in pharmacies to counter the growing rise of the disease.
The union argued as many as 200,000 people suffer from Type 2 Diabetes with tens of thousands of people not even aware that they have the condition.
Pharmacists also called on health chiefs to organise a nationwide drug dump at pharmacies to collect unwanted medicines.