Second pharmacy chain to cut drug mark-up charge
A SECOND large chain of pharmacies has announced it is scrapping its mark-ups on prescription charges. The move will see the cost of many leading drugs fall significantly across the 26 stores trading under the Sam McCauley banner.
The pharmacy chain has followed the lead of Boots Ireland, which yesterday announced it was abandoning the traditional 50 per cent mark-up that pharmacists add to the cost price of a drug on top of a €5 dispensing fee, in favour of a single €7 “professional services fee” that will be added to the cost price of drugs.
Boots said its 10 most expensive prescription drugs will fall in price by an average of 25 per cent. This will save people on medications for conditions including asthma and heart disease up to €300 a year. A person with asthma who pays €95 a month for drugs will see the cost drop to just over €70, a saving of about €290 a year. Monthly costs for a person with high blood pressure and cholesterol will fall from €77 to €66, an annual saving of nearly €150.
The move on pricing has been welcomed by Minister for Health James Reilly and he called on other pharmacists to follow Boots’s lead.
The Minister is also to roll out legislative changes that will allow pharmacists more freedom to replace cheaper generic drugs for branded ones that GPs prescribe.
“I am very much of the view that patients should be empowered to ask, particularly private patients, if there is not a generic formula and say it to the doctor too when he or she is writing the prescription,” Dr Reilly said.
“Pharmacists are currently free to recommend generic drugs up to a certain point but we want to bring in a drugs reference pricing Bill which we hope to bring in before the summer,” he said.
The Competition Authority also welcomed the increased competition among pharmacies for the price of prescription medicines.
“The pharmacy sector is an area where we successfully campaigned for the removal of barriers to competition over many years,” chairwoman of the authority, Isolde Goggin, said.
“New retailers have now entered the market and challenged the status quo. Large retailers as well as smaller pharmacies and chains have reacted by lowering their prices. This is competition at work.”
The National Consumer Agency also welcomed the move but called for greater price transparency in the pharmacy sector.
The Irish Pharmacy Union has said the move underlined the competitive nature of the pharmacy sector and claimed the price of drugs had fallen dramatically in recent years, with high-volume medicines coming off patent.