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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 24 August, 2019
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Pharmacy delivery service set up after people stop taking meds due to cost

Healthwave offers generic medications to members of its Health Pass scheme. Now, it delivers medication around Ireland to further cut down on costs.

Shane O'Sullivan of Healthwave
Shane O'Sullivan of Healthwave
Image: Cameo Communications
There’s no secret sauce or magic – we’re just charging less.

PEOPLE FROM ALL over the country go to the Healthwave pharmacy in Dublin for their prescription medication.

But why travel all the way there, when you could spend money in your local pharmacy?

It all comes down – unsurprisingly – to money.

As it offers generic medications, and no dispensing fee, Healthwave in Dundrum Town Center in Dublin – run by Shane O’Sullivan – is a cheaper bet for people who need regular medication.

Now the pharmacy has branched into a delivery service to try and further cut the costs for people, after O’Sullivan realised people were stopping taking medication due to lack of funds.

Travelling

O’Sullivan explained that people who had travelled from around the country had been asking him: “Is there any way we could get our medications posted next month? We are not getting the value where we live but it is a bit of a trek over to Dublin.”

He came up with the idea of a delivery option. “We’re delighted with the amount of people that have signed up and the amount of people that went back on medication who had stopped due to prices,” he said.

We had a woman last month from Artane in North Dublin who had gone three months without blood pressure tablets, which is quite dangerous. She was paying around €100 and we brought it down to around €30. So she was delighted that she wanted to be taking them but because of her circumstances it was coming down to decision of bills and food and medicine.

“We don’t want people to go any day without tablets,” said O’Sullivan.

He said that people are saving between 50 and 80 per cent on their drug bills through  membership of Healthwave’s Health Pass scheme.

Healthwave offers memberships for €25 a year to Health Pass, which entitles people to a reduced price list for medications.

The most we’ve heard now is €1100 we’ve saved someone in a year.

Before people can avail of the delivery service, they must go to Healthwave in Dublin for an initial meeting.

“We’ve predominately generic medication. They are cheaper to buy, and then we’ve removed dispensing fees,” explained O’Sullivan.

Traditionally a pharmacy would have a professional fee that they add on to every item on a prescription which can add on to the cost. We got rid of them and reduced down the mark-ups.

The items are couriered using DPD couriers. “They’re regulated by the Irish Medicines Board,” said O’Sullivan. “We need to be ultra cautious and we have to get a signature. It’s illegal to put medicines in the post in Ireland.”

The cost of health

O’Sullivan is a UCC pharmacy graduate who qualified in 2008. While working in various pharmacies, he saw how the price of medicines was prohibitive to some.

“I spent the last six or nine months thinking about this and just listening to customers going north of the border and going to Spain [to buy medication],” said O’Sullivan. “I was hearing that on the counter of various pharmacies and thinking we must be able to do something here.”

He said that selling generics is “changing a tradition”. “I suppose some people mightn’t want to go against all of that,” he said.

Pharmacy regulator

Before launching, Healthwave discussed the issue with the pharmacy regulator to ensure the service is compliant with legislation.

“I think we’ve managed to allay people’s fears,” said O’Sullivan of generic medication. “Up to now there wasn’t much of a saving in getting a generic – it just wasn’t being passed onto the consumer.”

He added: “The Irish medicines board are probably the strictest in the world when it comes to generics. We’re really lucky here that it’s so heavily regulated.”

The next phase for Healthwave is creating apps and online ordering, and rolling out new stores around the country.

“It’s about removing barriers and keeping people on their medication,” said O’Sullivan.

“We’re blown away by the reaction but I think people were crying out for cheaper medication – every second person who is in here has a stamp on their script from Newry.”

Read: Irish pharmacy union doesn’t believe pharmacies will jump to cheaper model>

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