Belfast Telegraph

Chemists also enjoy influx from Republic

By Victoria O'Hara

It is not just the cost of dental care in the Republic that has led to people making the journey to Northern Ireland to pay for treatment.

In January we reported how rocketing drug prices were also believed to have led to a significant rise in people making trips across the border for their medication.

One pharmacy in Newry estimated it is dispensing prescriptions to at least 20 people a day from the Republic.

Anyone with a European (EEA) prescription, including those issued in the Republic, is entitled to medication.

It is treated as a private prescription and a fee will be charged by the pharmacist here.

Despite the charge, it is still cheaper in many cases for the person to make the cross-border trip.

A member of staff at McNally's Pharmacy in Newry said since prescription drug prices in the Republic rose by 7.7% last year the number of people making the trip had grown.

"We have experienced a massive spike in the last 12 months, it has become a major part of our business," he said.

"We have always had people travelling up but it has really spiked over the last year. I could easily see 20 people a day. I even served one person who had travelled all the way from south Kerry."

Among the most common prescriptions are for chronic medications.

"Typically, blood medications would be a big one," he said. "The bulk of items are £3.95 per item.

"People are also willing to use the generic brand as opposed to the patented brand. They would see, typically, a 30-40% saving in Newry from Southern prices."

One man making the trips is Jim Dolan from Dublin. He estimates he saves more than €1,500 (£1,230) a year by buying his medicine in Northern Ireland.

He was spending around €70 (£57) a month on blood-thinning drug Plavix, but was able to cut that to £22.50 (€27) – and by asking his doctor for a generic prescription, he reduced that further to £5.50 (€6.70).

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