Price of many drugs may fall 10% from next month


THE PRICE of prescription drugs is likely to fall by more than 10 per cent within days after the Department of Health announces the outcome of negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry’s representative group.

However, while lower prices will be welcomed by consumers, they are leading to severe shortages of some drugs and the problem is only going to get worse, it has been warned.

President of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union Rory O’Donnell told The Irish Times yesterday that “certain medicines have been in short supply for quite some time”. He said drugs which combat depression, erectile dysfunction and diabetes have been hardest hit.

There is a public service obligation compelling manufacturers to maintain a certain supply of prescription medications for the Irish market but Mr O’Donnell said the system was “not particularly robust”.

Some medicines are subject to what is known as “allocation”. This means the manufacturer rations supply to wholesale and retail pharmacies, in an effort to prevent re-export to other EU markets where the price is higher. This often causes shortages and interruptions in treatment. The issue is likely to worsen as the price of medicines keeps falling.

Mr O’Donnell said that while there is a PSO in place, it does “not appear that the problem is being taken seriously” by either the Department of Health or the Irish Medicines Board, which regulates the supply of drugs in the State.

Drugs such as Cialis, used to treat erectile dysfunction, and the anti-depressant Cymbata, have been in short supply in recent weeks while supplies of drugs for diabetes, multiple sclerosis and psychosis have also run down in many chemists across the State.

Other brands identified by Mr O’Donnell as hard to come by in recent months include Eltroxin which treats a serious thyroid condition, and Nexium which is used to manage stomach acid. The IPU is regularly updating a list of drugs in short supply at

Irish drug costs are among the highest in the world, although negotiations between the Department of Health and the industry have produced some reduction in prices. Lower prices mean the Republic is not as attractive a market for manufacturers as it was in the past, which has led to a reduced supply of some medications.

Minister for Health James Reilly is likely to announce a major repricing of prescription medications as early as next week, following intense negotiations with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association. The Government is seeking savings of €150 million on its annual drug bill of €1.5 billion. Industry sources said yesterday they expected the price reductions to be “very substantial” with the cost of some drugs falling by as much as 25 per cent.

Suppliers and pharmacies have been running down their stocks of certain drugs to ensure they are not left with drugs purchased for a higher price than the reduced prices likely to come into effect on November 1st.