Cheaper drugs now
Still more on the price of medicines. A reader called Tom got in touch with a story about remarkable price differentials between a very common medication in the Republic and in Spain. He uses a drug called Omeprazol to relieve the symptoms of reflux and will need to take it every day for the rest of his life. He was initially prescribed with Losec – a popular branded name for Omeprazol.
He was paying €70 for a month’s supply “until a friendly temporary Australian locum pharmacist in my normal chemists informed me the cheaper capsule was Ulcid. He was amazed at costs here. Same stuff, same effect, but €48 per month.”
Of course the pharmacist could not simply swap his Losec for Ulcid because they do not have the legal authority to stray from a doctor’s prescription even though the branded, more expensive drug is absolutely identical in every respect to the generic equivalent.
So Tom took himself off to his doctor – not a great stretch as has to go to his GP every three months at a cost of €60 a time to get his prescription renewed. He spends €240 on GP visits each year and €580 on the cheaper tablets – a total of €820.
Well, that is what he was spending until last month when he ran out of tablets in Barcelona. “I went in to a chemist’s with my empty Ulcid container and asked could I have some.” The chemist did not have Ulcid but had Omeprazole in a capsule form called Pensa. “The same drug, same effect. The cost of a month’s supply – €3.50. Yes, €3.50. And then he asked me how many months I needed. So I obtained a year’s supply for €42. Unbelievable. A saving of over €700.”
He points out that someone with the same condition as himself can bring a friend to Barcelona for a long weekend, stay in a 4-star hotel, buy a year’s supply of the tablets and still have change out of the €820 he would be spending getting the same drugs in Ireland.