We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

The Journal reported last week that the Women's Health Task Force and a medicines group within the HSE is reviewing how the State might fund the drug Cariban. Alamy Stock Photo

Minister 'hopeful' positive outcome can be reached to help women with severe pregnancy sickness

No decision has been reached at Government level as to how the State might subsidise the cost of the drug, Cariban.

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said in a statement this evening that he is “hopeful” that the HSE can reach a “positive outcome” when it comes to funding a severe pregnancy sickness drug. 

Last week, The Journal reported that the minister had asked the Women’s Health Taskforce to examine options for funding a severe pregnancy sickness drug to make it more available to women.

The Department of Health established the task force in 2019 in a bid to improve women’s health outcomes and experiences of healthcare.

Women impacted by severe vomiting, known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum or HG, have repeatedly called for the State to reimburse or lower the costs of Cariban. 

HG can profoundly debilitate pregnant women; while many women suffer from regular morning sickness (which can actually occur at any time of the day) during pregnancy, HG is a lot more serious.

It is understood the minister wants to ease the financial burden and examine if there is another mechanism by which to fund the drug, known as Cariban, which can cost women up to €3,000 over the course of their pregnancy.

Comments made at a private Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting last night sparked hoped among women who have been campaigning for women to get access to the drug under the medical card or Drug Payments Scheme.

No decision reached

Donnelly told his part meeting last night that there should be “good news” coming soon in relation to helping ease the cost of the medication – however, it is understood that his words may have been over-inflated the current situation.

No decision has been reached at Government level as to how the State might subsidise the cost, senior sources have confirmed to The Journal.

The minister is still awaiting the results of the review from the task force, which has only just got underway.

Donnelly is understood to also be awaiting a decision by another group within the HSE that has been asked to review whether a special arrangement can be made to ensure patients get access to the drug. 

The Journal reported last week that the HSE had asked a medicine management group to “examine the appropriateness and feasibility of a patient specific arrangement” that would make the pregnancy sickness drug available to women who need it.

This review is taking place in tandem with the examination by the task force, it is understood.

A recommendation from the medicine management group is expected to be sent to the HSE “in the coming weeks” on whether a “special arrangement” can be facilitated to give women access to Cariban. 


A statement from Donnelly read out in the Dáil by Minister of State Anne Rabbitte, stated that the Department of Health is working with “urgency” to identify all the available options to better support this cohort of women.

In the coming weeks, the health minister will also be bringing a women’s health action plan to government, which will set out a wide range of initiatives.

Addressing the issue of reimbursing payment for the drug, Donnelly said in the statement:

Unfortunately, the situation is not straightforward.

As reported previously by The Journal, there are issues with the State reimbursing the costs as the drug is not currently licensed for use in Ireland.

Only when authorised can it be added to the reimbursement list, though doctors are free to prescribe the medication to women, and is done so regularly in all Irish maternity hospitals.

Donnelly said the HSE has advised him that Cariban is which is regarded as a food supplement rather than a medical product, which also limits the ability for the State to subsidise the cost, he explained (something which many pharmacists have taken issue with).

On the matter of the medicines group within the HSE reviewing whether a special arrangement can be made to help women with the cost of the drug, and as reported previously by The Journal, the minister said in his statement that the results of the evidence review and recommendations “should be completed completed in a matter of weeks”.

‘Positive outcome’

“The Minister for Health appreciates that this is a worrying time for women suffering from Hyperemesis and is hopeful that the HSE can arrive at a positive outcome with respect to the Cariban and its availability under the Drug Scheme in Ireland,” his statement concluded.

Social Democrat’s TD Gary Gannon, who raised the matter under Topical Issues in the Dáil this evening, said there has been a lack of urgency in terms of addressing this issue.

Donnelly, when he was in Opposition in 2018 raised this very issue, Gannon pointed out, stating that something should have been done to address the problem “much quicker than last month” when it was referred to the medicines group.

“The effects of Hyperemesis are not insignificant for pregnant women,” said Gannon, who added that he could sense from the junior minister present in the chamber this evening, and reading the health minister’s statement, that she too was frustrated by the delays. 

“I think we both recognise that there is a shared need to grow urgency around this issue,” he said.

Gannon said Donnelly’s comments about “good news” around the drug captured the attention of people suffering with HG, and called on the minister to bring some finality to the matter “because women are suffering as a consequence of an absence of action”.

Minister Rabbitte committed to raising the issue with the health minister.

“I do know Minister Donnelly has put a priority on women’s health,” she said, adding that clarification was needed as to the next steps.

“Because as a female who has given birth three times, and who actually suffered, I could not say what Hyperemesis, but you know what, I do know what morning sickness is like and I can’t imagine what that level is like. I wouldn’t want any woman to go through it.

“It is a priority. It’s a shared priority of all of us to ensure that nobody has to go through it unnecessarily,” she concluded.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel