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"Minister should intervene directly in pharmacy dispute" - Ó Caoláin

19 November, 2007

Commenting on the ongoing dispute between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) regarding the pricing of medicines, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called for the Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney to intervene directly. He stated:

“The Government and the HSE have known for years that the system of pricing medicines would have to be revised. Yet they have mishandled the situation and allowed a confrontation to develop. The Government tells us that because of a legal ruling the HSE is unable to negotiate directly with the IPU on these matters as it would be a breach of the Competition Act. The right of the IPU to represent their members is clearly being denied yet the Government has failed to explain how it is going to address this anomaly. For example will they bring in amending legislation? They have not told us.

“I have repeatedly raised this issue in the Dáil and urged the Minister to show the sense of urgency required. She has failed to so.

“It is ludicrous that talks between the HSE and the IPU are having to be conducted through an intermediary, Mr. Bill Shipsey, and through solicitors representing both parties. The Minister needs to intervene directly and find a formula to get all aides around the table for direct talks.

“This dispute has raised the prospect of people with medical cards being denied their medication at their community pharmacy if the pharmacists withdraw from the scheme.  For many pharmacists the proposed changes to the pricing structure raise the prospect of a sharp drop in income, especially for those heavily dependent on the medical card scheme.

“Published on 13 November, a report commissioned by the Health Service Executive itself recommends that any changes to the wholesaler margin for medicines and the impact of these changes should be evaluated in conjunction with key stakeholders in advance of being implemented. The HSE has ignored this recommendation.

“The Minister and the HSE need to get their act together and take control of the situation with the twin aims of ensuring fairness for all involved in the GMS scheme and working to reduce the cost of medicines for the health services and consumers alike.”ENDS

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