Ireland’s medicines budget falls as percentage of healthcare spending

State spent 13.4% of €19bn budget on medicine, pharmacies and wholesaling in 2021

Ireland's medicines budget has been falling over recent years as a percentage of overall healthcare spending, according to figures from various sources, including the Health Service Executive.

An industry report that examined official Irish figures alongside those for 14 other EU states found the State spends slightly less of its overall health budget on medicines than the EU average.

The study by health analysts IQVIA for the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, the biopharmaceutical industry's representative organisation in Europe, shows that spending on medicines in 15 European countries is about 15 per cent of total healthcare expenditure.

Last year, the State spent €2.54 billion on medicines, pharmacy and wholesaling costs – 13.4 per cent of the €19 billion health budget – according to estimated figures from the Department of Public Expenditure.


In 2016, medicines accounted for 14.3 per cent of the health budget, according to the same sources.

Societal costs

A spokesman for the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) said the figures show that, “based on current Government health expenditure estimates for 2021, we are spending almost one percentage point less on medicines today than we did five years ago as a proportion of the overall health budget”.

“For many chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the cost of medicines is a very small part of the overall cost of the disease, especially if you count the broader societal costs.

“Medicines reduce unnecessary emergency visits, hospitalisations and complications.”

Yet, the spokesman said, that contribution was not recognised by greater investment as part of the health budget.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times