Readers’ queries

This week features drug prices, anger at the ESRI and a lament about lasagne


Huge differences in drug prices either side of the Border

We had a big response to the piece we ran on inflated drug prices in the State. A reader from Dundalk has a shocking story. His wife is recovering from breast cancer and will have to take a drug called exemestane for the next three years. The drug reduces the risk of the cancer returning.

“We have been paying €98.75 a month for a 25mg dose of the drug in Dundalk, which sells under the Aromasin brand, but after reading your article I decided to price it in Newry,” he said.

He called a Boots in the Buttercrane Centre in the town on Monday and was quoted a price of just over £11 for a month’s supply of the generic version of exemestane. The dosage is the same. Boots in Dundalk, meanwhile, is selling a generic version of the drug for €86.41. So generic exemestane costs €13.25 in Newry and €86.41 in a town less than 20km away. Typically a patient needs to take the drug for about three years, which means Boots customers in the Republic will have to pay a total of about €3,110 for the course of life-saving treatment, while its customers in the North and Britain will pay €477.

How can Boots stand over such a price difference? A spokeswoman said that it charged no mark-up on drugs and had no responsibility for the pricing, which came from the deals struck between the manufacturer and the State. We asked if it got any discounts on the drug in question and if it was happy with the huge price differential. We also wondered if it could use its clout to have prices in the Republic reduced. We are waiting for a response.

Peter J Conlon is a retired GP and the article on drug prices also prompted him to get in touch with a very valid point. We referred to an anti-reflux drug and low-dose aspirin, and he says we suggested that the only reason to visit a GP was to get a prescription.

“This is very far from being true. The reasons are to assess the progress of treatment, ensure it is working, and still needed, and to look for and deal with any side effects. In fact, all patients who need the drugs you mention, omeprazole and low-dose aspirin and many other long-term prescription drugs, need to see their GP at the very least every six months, and preferably every three months.”

He says it is “a huge mistake to assume that a drug which works well when prescribed will still be effective and safe several years later.

Half-baked lasagne instructions
Poor Ian Kavanagh from Kilmainham. He recently bought a Dolmio lasagne kit and it left him scratching his head.

“Making the lasagne is supposedly a simple three-step process but may I point out a problem with the printed instructions? All goes well until one reaches Step 3, which I shall quote: “Bake for minutes in an oven preheated to . . . gas mark 6. Allow to stand for 1 minute before serving”.

Now he wants to know how many minutes the product has to remain in the oven: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 40 minutes?

The instructions omit that rather important detail!

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