Thursday, 01 November 2012 10:44
- Irish Pharmacy Union calls for greater range of medicines to be available without prescription
- Expanding the role of the pharmacist will improve health outcomes for patients and deliver efficiencies and significant savings for the Exchequer
- Concern expressed over government-influenced costs and the burdensome regulatory environment
A much greater range of medicines should be available without prescription from pharmacists, a move that would reduce cost burdens on primary and secondary healthcare systems while bringing health, social and economic benefits to all, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has stated. In its pre-budget submission 2013, the IPU once again called on the Government to expand their role in the delivery of a reformed primary healthcare system resulting in improved outcomes for patients and significant savings to the Exchequer. Encouraging responsible self-care and appropriate self-medication and further expanding the professional role of the pharmacist should be explicit objectives of public health policy going forward, pharmacists say.
"More should be done to empower patients to take care of their own health in a safe, convenient and cost-effective manner. This would entail making a much greater range of medicines available without prescription from pharmacists – particularly those medicines with long-established safety profiles, many of which are available without prescription in other jurisdictions", IPU President Rory O'Donnell stated.
Mr O'Donnell said Ireland should be looking at the partnership model in the UK, which has shown the possibilities for expanding self-medication through a change in the method of supply of some medicines from prescription-only to pharmacy-only. "A study in the UK has shown that GP-treated ailments that could have been self-treated cost the NHS £2 billion every year. This shows the type of savings that could be generated in Ireland if we moved more towards a pharmacy-based system rather than an over-reliance on a GP-based system", he stated.
In its pre-budget submission the IPU emphasised that significant savings could also be made if pharmacists were to become more active in chronic disease management and health screening. The introduction of structured Medicine Use Reviews, particularly for patients on complex medicine regimes would enhance patients' health outcomes and generate savings in the long term. "These are specific next steps for community pharmacy", Mr O'Donnell said. In a recent IPU survey, 91% of pharmacists said that the levels of general healthcare reliance on their service has grown as a result of the recession.
The IPU also highlighted the urgent need for the Government to address the costs on business that come under its direct control. In addition to draconian rents, Mr O'Donnell said that pharmacists are particularly concerned about exorbitant local charges, commercial rates and excessive energy costs, which are having a devastating effect on the viability of pharmacies throughout the country.
"In the past ten years rates have increased by a massive 47%, well in excess of inflation. Despite the substantial drop in retail sales for pharmacies, a 6% decrease last year, this has not been reflected in a corresponding reduction in rates which are strangling pharmacists. We are calling on the Government to implement a fairer system based on the ability of a small business to pay."
The regulatory environment and, in particular, the excessive fees paid to the Pharmacy Regulator was also highlighted as an area that needed immediate attention. The cost of registering a pharmacy with the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) is eight times higher than the registration fee in the UK.
"This year's Budget needs to recognise the significant role that pharmacists have to play in contributing to an effective and efficient healthcare system that can bring significant savings to the State, during these turbulent economic times. The costs and other burdens that are imposed on retail pharmacy businesses together with the burdensome regulatory environment are key issues that need to be urgently addressed to secure the future of this highly important sector", concluded O'Donnell.