Chemists set to quit drug scheme

MANY pharmacies were shut for most of the day yesterday when more than 1,000 members of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union attended an emergency meeting in Dublin to discuss the Health Service Executive’s cost-cutting measures.

Pharmacists, however, waited for the closed session of the day-long meeting to announce their intention to terminate their contracts with the HSE to supply drugs to medical card patients.

Pharmacists are required to give three months’ notice of their intention to quit the community drug payment scheme. The HSE confirmed no pharmacist has yet given notice.

The HSE has contingency plans in place to respond to a situation where a pharmacy refused a customer medicines they are entitled to under state schemes.

The HSE’s information line (1850 241850) received about 50 calls from people yesterday asking about the availability of pharmacy services in their area. It said no one called back to say they could not get their prescriptions filled.

The IPU alleges the move by the HSE to cut wholesale margins will cut pharmacists incomes by up to 30% and could put many out of business.

The HSE said people are paying too much for drugs and stressed the 17% to 7% reduction in margins should be cost-neutral for pharmacists.

It said it would breach competition law if they negotiated with the IPU and is also precluded by the same law from acting together on the issue.

An IPU spokesperson said widespread withdrawal by pharmacists from the community drugs schemes was likely following the meeting.

IPU president Michael Guckian said the pharmacy profession had been subjected to abuse, misinformation, innuendo and bullying by the HSE during the past six months.

“Your presence here today sends a very signal that we will not roll over in the face of this unreasonable attitude,” he told members.

He warned the HSE it could no longer rely on the cooperation of pharmacists but stressed the IPU would not be directing members towards any particular course of action.

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