The taxpayer is spending millions of euro on €37.75 standard packs of erectile dysfunction drugs, though alternative generic versions are a quarter of the cost.
The HSE last year spent €4.2m on the branded erectile dysfunction drug, Cialis, prescribed for medical card holders. A pack of Cialis costs €37.75 at pharmacists, compared to a generic Viagra brand at €9.
However, the HSE spend on the much-cheaper generic Viagra form was almost one quarter of the Cialis spend, at €1.1m.
Pfizer’s Viagra came off patent in June, 2013.
Male medical card holders are allowed a monthly allowance of four erectile dysfunction drugs from the HSE.
The overall spend on erectile dysfunction drugs, by the HSE, through the medical card system last year, totalled €6.1m, a 19% drop on the €7.5m spent in 2014.
Freedom of Information reports shows erectile dysfunction drug spend was €10.24m in 2011, and €9.46m in 2012.
The largest spend on erectile dysfunction drugs for medical card holders, last year, was in the Cork North Lee area. It totalled €250,915, and was followed by Limerick (€242,945), Galway (€242,198), and North Dublin (€223,646).
Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher yesterday said: “The State must insist on best-value-for-money and go for the cheapest drug, provided it carries out the same function.”
Calling for a HSE audit, he said “reasons should be sought, and given, why the bill for these drugs is not much lower”.
“I would like the HSE to investigate why branded products are being prescribed, when much cheaper, alternative products are available.”
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said the different medications being prescribed may not be suitable for everyone.
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