Charging for prescriptions is an attack on the poorest sections of society that saves a questionable sum of money, Irish politicians say.
The criticism comes after Irish Health Minister Mary Harney said she would introduce a 50 cent fee on every drug issued to cut costs.
But opposition politicians say more could be saved if the minister concentrated on slashing the price of generic medication.
“Greater use of generic drugs and addressing their cost here, up to 20 times higher than the UK, could yield 300 million euro,” Dr James Reilly said.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen defended the levy, saying it could save up to 30 million euro a year.
“We have to deal with rising drug costs and rising drug bills that have very much increased,” he explained.
“Indeed, since 2003, the number of prescriptions have increased by 22 million in this country so it (the fee) is just an indication of having to find a sustainable way forward.”
Copyright Press Association 2009