Plan to cut €10m from health spend with GMS scheme savings is shelved

Additional savings to come from reference pricing initiative

Former minister for health Dr James Reilly. Photograph: Frank Miller

Former minister for health Dr James Reilly. Photograph: Frank Miller


The Government is expected to shelve plans, announced last year, to save €10 million in the health service by dropping products reimbursed under the GMS (general medical services) medical card and community drug schemes.

On foot of the budget last October the then minister for health James Reilly said the savings would come in 2014 as a result of “de-listing” products from the inventory of items under the schemes.

The Department of Health said, at the time, the HSE would consider “products for review in compliance with the provisions of the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013”.

Senior health-service figures said earlier this year that work had started on this and it was hoped to name products for “de-listing” by June.

No such list was published. It is understood the plan to de-list products from the GMS and community drug schemes will not now go ahead.

The health service is now planning, it is understood, to realise the savings from the Government’s reference pricing/generic substitution scheme.

The Government said last year it sought to save about €50 million in 2014 on foot of health service initiatives such as reference pricing and generic substitution.

Last year legislation which provided for the introduction of a system of generic substitution and reference pricing for authorised medicines, began.

xhd Generic medicines are essentially copies of branded medicines, and contain the same active ingredients, but usually cost less.

Previously if a brand-name medicine was prescribed by a doctor, the pharmacist had to dispense it, even when less expensive versions were available.

The new legislation allowed the pharmacist to substitute a less-expensive generic version – that had been deemed interchangeable by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) – for the branded medicine.

The HSE sets one price it will pay for groups of medicines on the IMB’s list. If the patient wants a more expensive branded medicine, they have to pay for it.