Dáil Éireann - Volume 623 - 06 July, 2006

Written Answers. - Drugs Payment Scheme.

Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the threshold in the drug payment refund scheme each year since 2002; the reason for such increases in the qualifying threshold; her views on lowering the threshold to ensure that more people qualify for the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27932/06]

  Ms Harney: Under the Drug Payment Scheme (DPS), at present, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines.

On its introduction on 1 July 1999, the threshold was £42, and in subsequent years this was increased as follows:

• from £42 (€53.33) to €65 with effect from 1 August 2002

• from €65 to €70 with effect from 1 January 2003

• from €70 to €78 with effect from 1 January 2004

• from €78 to €85 with effect from 1 January 2005.

The DPS protects against excessive medical costs and significantly reduces the burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. The introduction of the scheme saw substantial growth in the State bill, and the cost of the scheme has risen significantly since its inception in 1999. The threshold was not increased between the scheme’s introduction in 1999 and 2002 although the cost of the scheme rose by 73% during that period. The number of claimants under the scheme rose by 40% between 2000 and 2002. As of 31 December 2003, 48% of the eligible population was registered under the Scheme. Only 15% of those registered exceeded the monthly threshold in that year, indicating that the scheme was successfully targeting patients with higher drugs costs. The number of eligible persons for the DPS as at 31 December 2004 was almost 1.47 million representing 36.33% of the population. Government expenditure on the [1437] scheme in that year was €226.83 million, an increase of €22.41 million on the previous year.

The threshold increases have been in line with Government policy to provide reasonable assistance for patients, within available resources.