Public forced to pay too much for vital medicines, say pharmacists

THE public is being forced to pay unnecessarily high sums for important medi-cines that should be made available over the counter, the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) has claimed.

The union has listed medication, including the morning-after pill and cholesterol-reducing tablets, which it said should be deregulated and made available from a pharmacist without a prescription.

Darragh O’Loughlin, chairman of the Community Pharmacy Committee of the IPU, said: “There are many medicines with a good safety record available directly from pharmacists in other EU countries for which patients here currently require a prescription. This means unnecessary delays and costs for patients in getting their medication.

“Deregulation of these medicines will enhance patient care and save time and money for patients. Pharmacists are the medicines experts and we are already treating patients very successfully with a whole range of medicines.”

The medicines that pharmacists want to see deregulated include:

Emergency hormonal contraception.

Mycostatin, Timodine, Daktacort for fungal infections of the skin.

Chloramphenicol eye drops for bacterial conjunctivitis.

Adcortyl in Orabase and Corlan Pellets for mouth ulcers.

Aspirin 75mg for prevention of heart disease and stroke.

Statins for prevention of heart disease.

Diflucan capsules for thrush.

Mr O’Loughlin explained: “It is important that patients get timely access to emergency hormonal contraception. Many patients arrive at pharmacies at the weekend urgently looking for emergency hormonal contraception and find it difficult to get an appointment with their GP at weekends.”

He said pharmacists had heard many complaints from patients about the fact that Aspirin 75mg is only available with a doctor’s prescription.

“Many patients at risk of heart disease and stroke have been advised to take it over a prolonged period. Patients are complaining that it is not available directly from their local pharmacist and the union agrees with them.”

In advance of the union’s AGM in Sligo, it has also said one in every five older people is concerned that they are not taking their medicines correctly.

The IPU researched the subject and found 20% of those over 65 agreed with the statement: “I am sometimes uncertain that I am taking the right dosages of medication as intended.”

Said Michael Guckian, Sligo pharmacist and president of the IPU: “These findings are very concerning given the strong possibility of accidental overdose or underdose if older people are uncertain how much medication to take.”

The union has submitted proposals to the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive to help older people in taking their medicines.

“This will help older people to live independently at home and to avoid unnecessary worry in the management of their medication,” said Mr Guckian.

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