Harney seeks to enable prescription of generic medications

Health Minister Mary Harney is promising new legislation next year to allow doctors prescribe generic drugs for patients over branded drugs.

Known as generic substitution and reference pricing, the new system should save a minimum of €78m per year.

Currently, when a specific brand of medicine is prescribed for a patient, a pharmacist can only supply that particular brand, even when less expensive versions of the same medicine are available.

Under the proposal, pharmacists would be permitted to substitute medicines which have been designated as interchangeable.

Minister Harney has received a report on the matter today, and will propose legislation by 2011.

“Due to our ageing population and increased usage of medicines, we can expect upward pressure on our drugs bill for our health services," Minister Harney said.

"It is essential, therefore, that we maximise value for money in this area of expenditure and use all methods to ensure that the right drugs are used, at the right time for the right conditions, and that the cost of drugs is kept as low as possible.

"The new system of generic substitution and reference pricing will promote price competition and deliver greater value for money," she added.

"Over the next five years a number of high volume medicines are expected to come off patent. These reforms will ensure that lower prices are paid for these medicines resulting in significant savings for taxpayers and patients."

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