Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 79, 83, 86 - Community pharmacy services [25814/07, 25850/07, 25930/07].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 79, 83, 86 - Community pharmacy services [25814/07, 25850/07, 25930/07]. (25 Oct 2007)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

79. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she or her Department have had discussions with the pharmacists since her recent announcement in respect of the new proposals in regard to the purchase and dispensing of drugs; if so, the position regarding these discussions. [25814/07]

83. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will to take to resolve the dispute between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union; if her attention has been drawn to the impact that this dispute is having and will have on the public if the IPU actions continue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25850/07]

86. Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene in the stand-off between the Health Service Executive and pharmacists in the Dublin area to ensure the immediate resumption of methadone services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25930/07]

Minister for Health and Children (Deputy Mary Harney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 79, 83 and 86 together. I have previously outlined in detail to the Oireachtas the legal reasons why it is not possible for the HSE to negotiate with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) on fees, prices or margins for their members. A detailed, fair and transparent consultation process, including independent economic analysis and public consultation, informed the final determination of the new reimbursement arrangements announced by the HSE. The evidence available to the HSE indicates that the impact on individual pharmacies will not be detrimental, having regard to the totality of fees and mark-ups under the GMS and community drugs schemes. In regard to the reimbursement prices for drugs and medicines under the GMS and community drugs schemes, the main wholesaler companies have recently confirmed to the HSE they will charge community pharmacists the same price for these drugs and medicines as pharmacists will be reimbursed by the HSE for these products. All the evidence available to the joint HSE/Department of Health and Children team dealing with this issue indicated that the State was paying a premium for this service and that the new arrangements will save the HSE about €100m in 2008. The impact of the new arrangements on the incomes of pharmacists will depend on the extent of the discounts which individual pharmacists were getting from wholesalers under the previous arrangements. I am advised that large urban pharmacies and chains typically got discounts of up to 12% whereas small and rural pharmacies got discounts of 2-3%.

A process of dialogue was established, chaired by Bill Shipsey SC, to explore ways in which concerns raised by the IPU about the implications of this legal advice might be addressed. At a meeting on 11 October, the IPU maintained that it has a fundamental right as a trade union to fully represent its members on all issues. It appears, therefore, that the Union does not accept the legal position under competition law regarding negotiation on fees. In an effort to resolve the present impasse arising from the unilateral withdrawal of methadone services by some pharmacists’ Mr Shipsey issued a statement on 19th October expressing confidence that the process of dialogue could be resumed, if these services could be restored.

On foot of Mr. Shipsey’s intervention, on 21st October the President of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union called on its members who have ceased providing this service, to resume service as soon as possible. The HSE have advised that the majority of pharmacists have now resumed dispensing methadone. The HSE contingency plan in relation to methadone dispensing will remain in operation for the present until such time as the HSE are satisfied that the necessary patient transfer controls to enable the safe return of patients to the community pharmacists, are in place. This is expected to take place within the next two days. I strongly welcome both interventions and would urge the remaining community pharmacists concerned to resume dispensing methadone as soon as possible. As soon as this is achieved it will be possible for renewed engagement to take place between the Irish Pharmaceutical Union and the HSE under the auspices of Mr. Shipsey. Vol. 640 No. 3 Written Answers Thursday, 25 October 2007

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