THE IRISH PHARMACY Union has warned this evening that gluten-free products will no longer be reimbursed by the Government.
This cutback will affect people with coeliac disease. Their digestive system can not tolerate gluten – a common protein found in wheat, barley and rye – and they have to pay higher prices for gluten-free products. Up until now, many coeliacs could claim back the price of basic gluten-free foodstuffs.
However, the HSE today issued a circular which said that gluten-free products will no longer be covered under State schemes such as the medical card, drug repayment schemes and long-term illness schemes.
The cut came into effect last Friday – September 1.
The notice of the cut was circulated at midday today – September 3.
Cathy Maher, vice-president of the Irish Pharmacy Union (the IPU), told TheJournal.ie this evening:
The HSE hasn’t communicated this effectively with patients. It’s back to us to convey the bad news again.
Maher said she had to break the news to a customer today who arrived to order her usual batch of breakfast cereal and other gluten-free foodstuffs – that customer was “absolutely shocked” to hear that the reimbursement had been discontinued. Maher said: “It’s really unfair, it goes against a whole community of people. A loaf of gluten-free bread can cost as much as three or four euro and drug payment schemes did mitigate some of the costs.”
One in every hundred people in Ireland suffer from coeliac disease to varying degrees of intolerance. It is one of the highest incidences of coeliac disease in the world.
The IPU were similarly only informed by text message on Friday of the removal of three drugs from the list of those which can be reimbursed under certain State schemes. These are:
- Glucosamine – which deals with wear and tear of the joints in osteoarthritis patients;
- Omega 3 triglycerides – which are beneficial win conjunction with cholesterol-lowering drugs, and are often prescribed by cardiac doctors;
- Orlistat – known as Xenical here – a weight-reduction drug available on prescription.
The former two drugs are particularly of benefit to older patients, according to Maher.
These cuts are separate to the €130m cuts announced by the HSE on Thursday evening.
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