The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), which represents 2,200 pharmacists across the country, welcomed the decision to reduce the prescription levy from €2.50 per item to €2 per item for those under 70, but expressed disappointment that, at the very least, the levy was not eliminated for particularly vulnerable patient groups, such as homeless people, those in residential care settings, or patients with disabilities and described this as a “lost opportunity”.
The IPU welcomed the slight fall in the Drugs Payment Scheme (DPS) threshold to €134 from €144, but is disappointed that a bigger reduction was not announced.
Daragh Connolly, President of the IPU, said, “Even with a reduction to €2, the prescription charge remains four times higher than when it was when first introduced in 2010. The prescription levy remains a harsh and unfair tax and impacts mostly on those on fixed incomes and in financial hardship. It is unacceptable that, on a day of a giveaway budget, the most vulnerable in society still have to pay a levy that frequently they cannot afford. This can result in some patients not taking their medicines, leading to higher levels of illness and an increase in hospital admissions. Even at this stage we would call for common sense to prevail and that the levy, at the very least, is not applied to vulnerable patients.”
Mr Connolly said, “The reduction in the DPS threshold is a step in the right direction in assisting hard-pressed families in covering the cost for their medicines. Much more should be done to reduce the threshold further over the next number of budgets.”