HSE saves over €3m for tax-payer in Viagra-style drug spend last year

HSE saves over €3m for tax-payer in Viagra-style drug spend last year

By Gordon Deegan

Over €3 million was last year saved for the tax-payer in the funding of Viagra-style erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs for men through the medical card system.

That is according to new figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) which show that the spend on the anti-impotence drugs last year totalled €2.98m - a drop of €3.2m or 52% - on the €6.19m spend on the drugs in 2016.

The sharp drop in the spend revealed in information provided in response to a Freedom of Information request follows the HSE issuing a directive in March 2017 to doctors that they could no longer prescribe the more expensive, but longer lasting, Cialis drug to patients.

The branded Cialis today costs around €33 per standard pack compared to the generic version costing a fraction of that at €8.

The cheap cost of the generic version follows Pfizer’s Viagra coming off patent in June 2013.

Last year, the tax-payer funded a €1.12m spend on Cialis through the medical card system and this compared to a spend of €4.35m on Cialis in 2016 through the medical card.

The spend on the Cialis drug made up the bulk of the overall €6.19m spent on erectile dysfunction drugs by the HSE in 2016.

Between 2011 and 2016 the spend by the HSE on erectile dysfunction drugs totalled €39.4m.

The savings to the tax-payer in not allowing doctors prescribe Cialis will be even greater this year as doctors will not be prescribing it for the 12 months of this year compared to not prescribing it for nine months last year.

Patients on the medical card system are allowed four erectile dysfunction tablets a month.

In a circular to GPs in March of last, senior HSE official, Anne Marie Hoey told doctors that the HSE was removing Cialis from the list of drugs available through the medical card and other HSE schemes from April 1st.

Ms Hoey pointed out that “many European countries” do not make available any drugs available through their medical card systems for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Ms Hoey pointed out that the low-cost generic version of the drug will continue to be made available to medical card holders.

Ms Hoey also stated that the continued availability of the high-cost Cialis for erectile dysfunction “would reduce the capacity of the HSE to fund other services and technologies”.

The largest spend of any health area on erectile dysfunction drugs last year was in the Cork North Lee totalling €119,276 with the spend in the Galway area totalling €112,556

The figures also show that the spend in North Dublin totalled €111,985 with the spend in Limerick - apart from east Limerick - totalling €111,547.


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