Competition among Pharmacies
Irish Times 25 April 2011 – Letter
Madam, – There has been much ill-informed comment recently about a supposed need to increase competition among Irish pharmacies. In fact, Ireland already has the most liberal and competitive pharmacy market in the EU.
There are a higher proportion of pharmacies per head of population in Ireland than almost any other country in the EU with an average of 1:2,800 people compared to a European average of 1: 5,100. The previous restriction preventing foreign-trained pharmacists from establishing new pharmacies (which was not unique to Ireland and which remains a feature of regulation in several other EU member states, including Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands and Portugal) was abolished in 2007 with the passing of the new Pharmacy Act.
We are one of the few countries where there are no restrictions on who can establish or operate a pharmacy; in the majority of EU states only pharmacists can own a pharmacy and there are population or geographical criteria restricting the opening of new pharmacies.
In 2005, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) completed a Europe-wide study of the regulation of professions, including pharmacists, and found that Ireland had the most de-regulated pharmacy market of all 25 EU member states. Similarly, a separate study, entitled Competition in Professional Services, published that same year by the European Commission, concluded that Ireland has the least regulated pharmacy market in Europe.
Of late, there have been substantial falls in the prices of hundreds of medicines, all of which have been passed on to patients by pharmacists who have themselves suffered dramatic cuts in their payments for providing medicines on behalf of the State.
The two main drivers of the national drugs bill at this stage are the increase in the number of medical cards (a by-product of soaring unemployment) and greater use of very expensive high-tech medicines, both of which schemes attract zero per cent mark-up for pharmacists. – Yours, etc,
DARRAGH J O’LOUGHLIN MPSI
Irish Pharmacy Union,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.
It speaks for itself.