Taoiseach Urges Pharmacists Not To Punish Recovering Addicts

Pharmacists should not make recovering drug addicts suffer in their dispute over fees with the Health Service Executive, the Taoiseach told the Dáil today.

More than 140 Dublin chemists pulled out of the HSE’s methadone supply scheme last Monday in a row over a new drug payment structure.

Bertie Ahern said the dispute had nothing to do with drug addicts and they should not be suffering as a result of the action.

“There is no justification whatever for bringing recovering drug addicts into a dispute, no matter whether it is called a commercial dispute or an industrial relations dispute,” He said.

“The dispute has nothing to do with people who are doing their best to recover from an addiction problem.”

“The action of 140 pharmacists to withdraw services from approximately 3,000 methadone patients is totally wrong and the same applies to threats to withdraw from dispensing drugs to medical card holders.

“The drug addicts have nothing to do with the dispute in which the pharmacists are engaged and it is a very unfair way of fighting their cause.”

The HSE urged pharmacists to resume services to methadone patients and said it could not negotiate fees with the IPU as this would be in breach of competition law.

The HSE says the new regime will cut the state’s drugs bill by €100m next year but pharmacists say it will result in them having to dispense medicine to public patients at a loss and put their businesses at risk.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore raised the issue in the Dáil and said that extremely vulnerable people such as recovering addicts should not be allowed to be victimised in the dispute.

He asked how the Competition Act was blocking negotiations with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union when it had not stopped talks on fees with the Bar Council, the Law Society, the Dental Association and the Vets Association.

Mr Gilmore also said that the HSE arrangements will also put small independent pharmacies at risk.

“In time to come, if people are given a prescription from their doctor but there is no local pharmacy, it will mean they have to travel to the nearest big town or city for the prescription to be dispensed at one of the big pharmacy chains.”

“It is not right that some of the most vulnerable people in society are made a target and used in a dispute such as this to the extent that their needs and rights are seriously put at risk.”

He called for a return to dispensing methadone in community pharmacies.