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Budget 2014

James Reilly promised to scrap the 50c prescription it's €2.50

Despite the pledge, the prescription levy is now five times more expensive.

ON TAKING OFFICE in March 2011, Dr James Reilly promised to scrap the controversial 50 cent levy on prescription items for medical card holders…but three years on, it is now five times more expensive.

The charge will jump to €2.50 as a result of yesterday’s Budget.

In his first television interview after being named Minister for Health, Reilly pledged to get rid of the unpopular levy which was introduced by the Fianna Fáil-led government in 2010.

He described the charge as an unwise policy, stating that it could prevent people from obtaining necessary medications.

The prescription levy, which caused outrage at the time of its introduction, has increased steadily each year since 2010.

Patients with medical cards will now have to pay €2.50 for every item obtained through a prescription. The levy will be capped at €25 per month.

Pharmacists are already reporting a “significant annoyance” among customers at the increase.

“People are angry and concerned,” said secretary general of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), Darragh O’Loughlin.

“Putting economic barriers in the way of patients taking their medicine doesn’t make sense,” continued pharmacist Bernard Duggan.

“People living with heart disease, or at risk of the disease, should be focusing on getting better and keeping well not worrying about how they’re going to pay for their next vital prescription.

“Poor adherence to treatments, especially in the case of chronic illness and long-term patients will mean more hospital stays, more pressure on our already struggling and depleting health service and more cost to the exchequer in the treatment of these patients in the long run.

Patients need to be supported not punished.

The IPU has called for exemptions for patients in residential care settings, those with intellectual disabilities, people using the Methadone Treatment Scheme and in need of other medication, homeless men and woman and palliative care patients who may have their medicines changed very regularly.

It is hoped the additional money from the Prescription Levy will be worth €43 million to the Department of Health.

In a statement to, it said that the charge is intended to address rising costs in the medical card scheme and to influence, to some degree, demand and prescribing patterns.

The number of items dispensed under the scheme is projected to be about €65 million this year.

PICTURES: The winners and losers of Budget 2014

Read: Health Budget measures could have “dangerous and unintended” consequences, GPs warn

Damien Kiberd: Budget 2014 arithmetic not just iffy – it’s scary

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