HSE gets tough with big pharma - Cost of prescription drugs

MOST people have a choice when buying. They can decide to splash out on an expensive suit, or pair of shoes, or go for something that won’t break the bank. They may even choose to save their money for a rainy day.

Those with chronic illnesses are not most people. Unlike other consumers, they are buying out of absolute necessity, not desire, so the cost of their medication can literally mean the difference between life and death.

That choice is particularly stark in Ireland, because the cost of prescription and over-the-counter medication, as well as drugs purchased by the HSE, is higher here than in most other EU states.

The State accounts for 85% of pharmaceutical expenditure in Ireland and the HSE has indicated that it is done talking and is prepared to invoke statutory power to unilaterally cut the price it pays for drugs.

While all EU countries have seen substantial increases in drugs costs this century, Ireland’s increases have been among the sharpest, nearly tripling between 2000 and 2008.

In some instances, drugs freely available to holidaymakers in Spain cost up to ten times more in Ireland. This cannot continue. As the HSE takes on the drug companies, profiteering by pharmacists should also be tackled.

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