Plans to make Irish pharmacists legally obliged to substitute branded medicines with cheaper, generic drugs have been unveiled .
The Republic’s Health Minister Mary Harney revealed a new system of generic substitution and reference pricing – which could be law by next year – will cut the price of medical bills for patients and the State.
Less than one in five prescribed drugs are generic in Ireland, compared to four in five in the UK.
Generic substitution will allow pharmacists to dispense a cheaper version of a specific brand prescribed.
A price will be set for replacement medicines, with patients paying the difference if they want the brand make unless the generic drug is prohibited for clinical reasons.
A study based on the top 100 medicines by expenditure, which had a generic product available, revealed almost 78 million euro could have been saved last year.
It also showed the Health Service Executive (HSE) paid 1.9 billion euro for approximately 65 million prescriptions in 2008 – with that figure expected to soar to 2.4 billion euro by 2021 as the population increases and ages.
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), which represents 1,600 pharmacists, welcomed the legislation which members have been calling for for years, but raised concerns over reference pricing and jobs in the sector.
It claimed some European governments have fixed prices so low that pharmaceutical companies have stopped making or supplying generic medicines.
Copyright Press Association 2010