Most commonly used medicines here three times cheaper in UK


The price of the most commonly used generic medicines in Ireland is almost three times that in England, according to a new study.

Of the 10 most popular generic drugs, only aspirin was significantly cheaper in Ireland while two – omeprazole and lansoprazole – were six times dearer here than in England, researchers at Trinity College Dublin found.

Greater use of generics and the introduction of reference prices could result in savings of more than €180 million in the State’s bill for older patients who are heavy users of medicines, the report says.

The report confirms the findings of other studies which show that Irish drug prices are among the highest in the world.

Generic drugs are copies of original medicines which are no longer protected by patent. However, the study says that because the price of generics in Ireland is so high, only limited savings can be made by switching to them from branded drugs.

Far greater savings can be made through greater use of reference pricing, it says. This involves setting one price for all medicines in a group of similar medicines. The State pays only this single reference price and patients pay the difference if their drug of choice costs more.

The price of the dearest statin, which is used to control cholesterol, is six times that of the cheapest equivalent, for example. The authors acknowledge that for clinical reasons it is not always possible to switch to cheaper medicines within a given group.

Using reference pricing for multiple medicine users aged over 50 could save up to €152 million a year, while increasing use of generics could save another €29.5 million, say the researchers at the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing at TCD. The study focuses on the 70 per cent of over-50s who take medication regularly, most of whom have their drugs paid for by the State under the medical card schemes.