Updated: 07/10/16 : 05:38:19
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Pharmacists call for €2.50 Prescription Levy on Medical Card Holders to be Phased Out

The President of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), Daragh Connolly, has called on the Government to begin the phasing out of the €2.50 Prescription Levy paid by Medical Card holders, or, at the very least, to exclude vulnerable patients from the levy in Tuesday’s Budget. The call was echoed in the IPU’s pre-Budget submission to the Government.

Mr Connolly, a community pharmacist based in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, described the charge as “a levy against health and wellbeing for many people struggling with various ailments and who have very limited financial resources”.

The damaging health impact of the levy on many vulnerable patients was highlighted in the findings of a Behaviour & Attitudes Survey in March of this year. Carried out for the IPU, this national survey found that 28% of Medical Card holders said that they “think twice” about taking their prescribed medicines because of the cost of the levy, and one in seven of them confirmed that they had not filled a prescription because of the levy.  

In Budget 2014, the Government increased the levy from €1.50 to €2.50, adding up to a fivefold increase since June 2010 when the levy was first introduced at the rate of 50 cent per item.

Mr Connolly said: “Putting economic barriers in the way of vulnerable patients taking their medicine doesn’t make sense.  People living with heart disease, or at risk of the disease, should be focusing on getting better and keeping well, not worrying about how they will pay for their next vital prescription.  Poor adherence to treatments, especially in the case of chronic illness and long-term patients, will mean more hospital stays, more pressure on our already struggling health service, and more costs to the Exchequer in the treatment of these patients in the long run.  

“The IPU would like to see a phasing-out of the levy and, at the very least, that it is not applied to especially vulnerable patients, including those in residential care settings; homeless patients; patients receiving treatment under the Methadone Treatment Scheme in respect of other medication that they may require; patients with intellectual disabilities, and palliative care patients. Patients need to be supported, not penalised,” concluded Mr Connolly.