Belfast Telegraph

This man drives from Dublin to Newry to buy prescription drugs ... and he's saving £1,200 a year

BY VICTORIA O'HARA

Patients are travelling from as far away as Co Kerry to pharmacies in Northern Ireland in a bid to save thousands of pounds a year in prescription costs.

Rocketing drug prices are believed to have led to a significant rise in people making trips of hundreds of miles to cross the border for their medication.

One pharmacy in Newry estimates 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.

He added that this figure could double over a bank holiday.

"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 vast bulk of items we sell 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."

He said he had "no doubt" it was saving patients hundreds if not thousands of euro a year. "I'm seeing people come up to us every six months and they are typically paying £20 to £30 for something that would cost €144."

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) for the unbranded version.

He also made big savings on blood pressure drug Co-Diovan, which was available for £19 (€23) a month in the North, and just £5.50 (€6.70) for the generic version, much less than the price in the Republic.

A spokeswoman for the Health and Social Care Board confirmed if a member of the public had a prescription issued from a doctor in the Republic of Ireland they can bring it to a pharmacy in Northern Ireland for dispensing.

In the case of Northern Ireland, an EEA prescription, including those issued in the Republic of Ireland, can be dispensed provided the pharmacist is satisfied the prescription is valid and has been written by a qualified practitioner.

The Health and Social care Board does not have information on the number of prescriptions issued in this way.

Belfast Telegraph

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