Brexit and reduced state payments for medicines among biggest threats to Irish Pharmacy Businesses

Irish Pharmacy Union event examines future of Irish Pharmacies

26 June 2018: The future for Irish pharmacy businesses was explored at a major event in Dublin today, with over 150 industry stakeholders attending the high level event hosted by the Irish Pharmacy Union. Research released at the conference showed that the outlook for the pharmacy sector remains challenging, with the twin threats of Brexit and lack of government funding casting a shadow over community pharmacy for the immediate future.

Speaking at the conference, IPU Secretary General Darragh O’Loughlin said: “Many pharmacies suffered over the recession, particularly under the FEMPI cuts, which extracted almost €1.4bn from Community Pharmacies since 2009. However, innovative thinking by Government could enable the sector to grow further, while also improving healthcare services available to the Irish public. Ireland currently lags far behind countries such as Canada and the UK, where community pharmacies are providing an increased range of services without the need for a doctor’s prescription. These services include a pharmacy-based Minor Ailment Scheme, provision of oral contraception and a wide range of vaccination services, New Medicine Services, and management of chronic diseases such as hypertension – all of which could easily be introduced here in Ireland.”

Threat of Brexit

While Brexit looms over the entire economy, the pharmacy sector could be among the worst hit, with medicine shortages a very real concern. Dr Lorraine Nolan, Chief Executive of the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) addressed the conference outlining these concerns.

According to Dr Nolan, “Given our close existing ties with the UK including a shared market place, there are significant implications for Ireland. Up to 60% of marketed medicinal products share labels and leaflets with the UK market place. If there is a disruption in the supply of medicines this potentially could have a serious knock-on effect with the threat of medicine shortages in a worst case scenario. The HPRA is actively planning Brexit contingencies and encourages companies wishing to discuss any aspect of their operations related to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU to contact them.”

Future of the business model

Research released from JPA Benson Lawlor at the event showed that average pharmacy turnover fell by €295,000 during the recession, largely as a result of FEMPI cuts.

Jason Bradshaw of JPA Benson Lawlor said “What we have seen is that pharmacies have been forced to diversify and innovate to maintain and grow their businesses. The addition of new services such as weight management, blood pressure measurement, vaccinations and smoking cessation are attempts to offset lost income in other areas of the business, particularly the dispensary.” He warned that increasing business costs, including rising wages and rents, were a serious threat to the future development of pharmacy businesses throughout the country, and were putting increasing pressure on the bottom line”.

Consumer Attitudes

Irish consumers are overwhelming positive towards their pharmacy experience with 88% saying they are accessible and 91% see them as good value for money, according to new research from Behaviour & Attitudes.

“80% of Irish adults visit their pharmacy at least once a month”, explained Larry Ryan of B&A. “This makes them the most efficient component of the Irish health care system. It is clear that patients value the interaction with the pharmacist and want to see that role expanded. 92% of people would welcome the pharmacist being able to prescribe some medications for minor ailments. Nine out of ten would like the pharmacist to be able to offer services such as cholesterol management and weight management.”

Concluding, O’Loughlin called on the Government to empower the pharmacy sector to grow. “There is a crisis in the health service and it is steadily getting worse. Government plans to reorient the health service towards primary care are leading to an over-reliance on GP services that GPs themselves have consistently argued is unsustainable. The focus of the healthcare system must be towards the creation of a patient-focused health service delivered at the lowest level of complexity and as close to people’s homes as possible. Proper resourcing of pharmacy services would offer a sustainable future for primary care.”


For further information: Siobhán Kane, Press and Communications Manager, IPU, 087 775 1510