Everyone regarded by the Health Services Executive (HSE) as resident is entitled to either free or subsidised approved prescribed drugs and medicines and certain medical and surgical aids and appliances.
Medical card holders pay €1.50 charge per prescription item, subject to a monthly ceiling of €19.50 per family. (January 2013).
Certain people do not pay prescription charges:
In general, the approved prescribed drugs and medicines are provided by the retail pharmacy (chemist's shop). The official term is now "community pharmacy" but the term in more general use is the chemist's shop. It may also be described as the retail pharmacy or just the pharmacy. Virtually all pharmacies have agreements with the HSE to provide services under the Primary Care Reimbursement Services scheme.
Agreements were made in 1996 with pharmacists whereby they undertook to review patients' medical therapy and screen for any problems such as drug therapy problems, drug allergies, clinical abuse or misuse.
GPs may provide drugs and medicines directly to patients if the GP has only one practice centre and it is three miles or more from the nearest retail pharmacist. Doctors who dispense drugs and medicines under these arrangements are sometimes called "dispensing doctors".
Hospitals and other specialist institutions may also provide drugs, medicines and aids and appliances directly.
The rules about when drugs and medicines are free or subsidised are the same regardless of who provides them.
Regulations were introduced under the Irish Medicines Board Act 2006 which allow nurses the authority to prescribe medicines. Previously, only doctors had authority to prescribe.
Individual nurse prescribers must be employed by a health service provider and may only prescribe the drugs relevant to the setting in which they are employed. There will be specific restrictions on certain controlled drugs.
Your entitlement to free or subsidised prescribed drugs and medicines is to those products that are approved by the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the purposes of these schemes.
There is a system in place for the approval and control of drugs. The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) is the authority with responsibility for licensing medicines and testing them for safety, quality and efficacy. Drugs must be approved by the IMB before they can be sold at all. IMB approval does not necessarily mean that the drugs and medicines will be approved for the free and subsidised schemes. There are other factors involved in the approval process, including costs.
Certain items that can be bought over the counter are excluded from the schemes. Examples of such products are some painkillers, such as Panadol, Disprin, Solpadeine and Nurofen, vitamin supplements and products for the treatment of baldness.
Medical card holders and people with Hepatitis C who have a Health Amendment Act Card are entitled to get approved prescribed drugs and medicines for a charge of €1.50 per item. The GP fills out a special prescription form and you may go to any community pharmacist to have the prescription filled; you do not become a patient of a particular pharmacist as you do with a particular doctor.
Medical and surgical aids and appliances may be supplied directly to patients by the HSE.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.