Written Answers. - Drugs Payment Scheme.

Richard Bruton


241 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that patches which assist people to give up smoking are not covered on the drugs refund scheme, even though they are covered on the GMS; and if he will make arrangements for a consistent policy supporting this important method in assisting people to give up the habit of smoking. [2952/03]

My decision to make nicotine replacement therapies available to medical card holders was taken on foot of recommendations made by the cardio vascular health strategy group and the advisory forum established to support the task force in the implementation of strategy. A common list of reimbursable medicines is in place for the general medical services scheme and the drug payment scheme to ensure equity in relation to the range of medicines paid for by the State under both schemes. In order for a product to be included in the list of reimbursable items, it must satisfy a number of criteria, including that it is ordinarily supplied to the public only on foot of a medical prescription and that the product should not be advertised or promoted to the public. Nicotine replacement therapies belong to a category of products that would not normally satisfy these criteria, in that they are generally available over-the-counter, and may be advertised directly to the public. However, in light of the recommendations that have been made to me I have decided, as an exceptional measure, to make the full range of nicotine replacement therapies available on prescription to medical card holders only. Evidence shows that the lower socio-economic groups have a higher incidence of smoking and spend a higher proportion of disposable income on tobacco. Accordingly, it is considered that this group are in greatest need of assistance in helping them to quit the habit.