If you are ordinarily resident, you are entitled to free or subsidised approved prescribed medicines and certain medical and surgical aids and appliances. Prescribed drugs and medicines are covered by the medical card. Some prescription charges apply to most medical card holders. People suffering from certain conditions can get free drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances for the treatment of that condition. In general, approved prescribed drugs and medicines are provided by the retail pharmacy. Virtually all pharmacies have agreements with the insurance providers to provide services under the primary care reimbursement scheme. GPs may also provide drugs and medicines directly to patients. 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. There is a system in place for the approval and control of drugs. Regulatory authority is responsible for licensing medicines and testing them for safety, quality and efficacy. Drugs must be approved before they can be sold at all. Primary care reimbursement provides a list of medicines or aids provided under the medical card. Medical card holders who are prescribed items that are not on this list can apply to have them covered under a discretionary hardship scheme. If the hardship scheme does not cover the medicine and you have to pay for it, you may want to check with your doctor to see if there is an alternative. You can get more information about the scheme from your pharmacist.
Certain items that can be bought over the counter are excluded from the free or subsidised schemes. Examples of such products are vitamin supplements and some painkillers. Pharmacists may substitute different versions of some prescribed medicines – often less expensive generic versions of brand name medicines. The medicines must be included in a list of interchangeable drugs. 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 are specific restrictions on certain controlled drugs.