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Medical card holders to pay more for pharmacy bills from today

The levy will apply to each prescription item collected by a patient.

MEDICAL CARD HOLDERS will begin paying for their medicines for the first time today following the introduction of a prescription charge of 50 cent per item.

Some pharmacists have condemned the charge, saying it will lead to cash-strapped patients not taking essential medications, the Irish Times reports.

Pharmacists are obliged by law to collect the levy.

As the charge is applied to each individual item, the levy will particularly affect long-term and heavy users. However, there is a cap at €10 per family per month.

Minister for Health Mary Harney has dismissed the criticisms, saying that the charge will discourage “over-prescribing and the overuse of medication”, as well as helping to raise revenue for the state.

The prescription charge is expected to net €24m annually.

There certain patients who will be exempt from the charge including hepatitis C patients, children in state care, and those on the long-term illness scheme.

Amongst those liable to pay the levy are:

  • Homeless people
  • Residents of HSE-run and private nursing homes
  • Residents of disability centres
  • Terminally-ill patients receiving palliative care
  • Psychiatric patients
  • Those give emergency prescriptions from hospitals
  • Those filling dental prescriptions under the dental treatment scheme
  • TB patients
  • Recovering heroin addicts (excluding methadone prescriptions)

For patients who are prescribed items in various strengths and containers, the charge will apply to each separate strength of the medicine. This would apply, for example, for patients taking the anticoagulant drug Warfarin (known under brandnames Coumadin, Jantove, Marevan, and Waran).