Huge differences in drug prices at pharmacies

People have been urged to make sure they are not getting ripped off by pharmacists after a survey revealed huge variations in medicine prices.

The major study by the National Consumer Agency has found that, depending on where a person lives, they could be paying as much as 199% more for medications.

The examination was launched by the State’s consumer watchdog after concerns were raised overpotentially conflicting price-tags for set medications.

After investigations at 45 pharmacies nationwide, the NCA has found that 39 of the most commonly prescribed drugs are regularly being sold at inflated prices — with Cork and Waterford among the worst blackspots.

According to the study:

*Nationally, drug prices vary from 37%-199%, with the average difference across all products being 56%;

*Prescription differences in Cork vary by as much as 63%;

*In Dublin, differences were as high as 112% for some products, with the average gap being 44%;

*Price differences inWaterford were as high as 122%.

The NCA said all prices quoted referred to the cost charged to a first-time private patient for specific medicines bought on prescription only.

The study did not include any prices which may be charged to individuals who are in receipt of state funding for prescription medicines.

“Our survey shows there are huge differences in the cost of individual prescription medicines in local areas,” said NCA chief executive Karen O’Leary.

“We would urge consumers, especially those on long-term medication and who do not meet the criteria for the various state-funded drug schemes, to compare the costs of prescription medicines in their local area before choosing a pharmacy.

“Consumers can compare prices by simply visiting or phoning pharmacies.”

Ms O’Leary said that hard-pressed patients should always ask their pharmacists if price reductions are available, particularly if they are making regular purchases.

In light of the findings, the NCA has written to the regulator, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, asking it to ensure specific issues impact on drug prices are outlined to patients.

Health Minister James Reilly said patients should “shop around”. He said his Department was working on “thorough” legislation to address any potential problems in the way drugs are priced, with the changes likely to be brought into law over the coming months.

*Further information: corporate.nca.ie

Price variations

NATIONALLY

*Losec Mups 20mg: Difference between lowest and highest prices: €33.07, equal to 199%

*Zoton Fastab Tabs 30mg: Difference between lowest and highest prices: €22.37, equal to 112%

DUBLIN

*Zoton Fastab Tabs 30mg: Difference between lowest and highest prices: €22.37, equal to 112%

*Losec Mups 20mg: Difference between lowest and highest prices: €11.40, equal to 69%

CORK

*Valium Tabs 5mg

difference between lowest and highest prices: €3.20, equal to 63%

*Lyrica Caps 50mg: Difference between lowest and highest prices: €41.16, equal to 44%

LIMERICK

*Zoton Fastab Tabs 30mg: Difference between lowest and highest prices: €20.18, equal to 94%

*Valium Tabs 5mg: Difference between lowest and highest prices: €3.21, equal to 63%

WATERFORD

*Losec Mups 20mg: Difference between lowest and highest prices: €27.26, equal to 122%

*Emcor Tabs 5mg: Difference between lowest and highest prices: €6.39, equal to 69%


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