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New Bill will let chemists substitute cheaper generic drugs for more expensive ones

The new Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill 2012 could mean cheaper trips to the pharmacy.

Pharmacists will be able to substitute cheaper generic drugs in place of expensive branded ones, under draft laws published today.
Pharmacists will be able to substitute cheaper generic drugs in place of expensive branded ones, under draft laws published today.
Image: Be.Futureproof via Flickr

THE GOVERNMENT has published new draft legislation which could sees patients save money in pharmacies – by allowing pharmacists to substitute generic drugs in place of more expensive branded ones.

The Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill 2012 will end the current system where a chemist can only dispense the exact drugs named on a prescription written by a doctor and presented by a patient.

Under the new system, a pharmacist will be able to dispense a cheaper generic alternative to the drug, as long as the Irish Medicines Board has identified the alternative as having the equal effect and as meeting safety guidelines.

The new laws would also enforce a reference price for a group of interchangeable medicines, seeking to ensure that eligible patients do not face extra costs for cheaper products.

Patients who want to receive a familiar brand of medication which costs more than its generic equivalent,however, would be personally forced to cover the additional costs.

Junior health minister Roisin Shortall, who is overseeing the introduction of the new Bill, said the combination of generic substitutions and reference pricing would give patients an incentive to choose the cheapest product, while helping them avoid unnecessary costs.

The legislation also contains new rules governing the supply of drugs to Medical Card holders and those on community drugs schemes, giving the HSE the power to attach terms and conditions to the supply of some items, as long as those restrictions are “evidence-based and in the interests of patients”.

The Bill will receive its introduction to the Seanad this Friday, with the government hoping to complete the Oireachtas’s examination during the autumn session.

Read: Howlin insists HSE will reach savings target despite €280m overspend

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Gavan Reilly

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