Pricing Transparency of Prescription Medicines

The PSI receives queries on pricing in pharmacies on an ongoing basis from pharmacists, patients, other healthcare professionals and state agencies. While the area of pricing of medicines is out of the remit of the PSI, the PSI considers that transparency in pricing for patients and members of the public is desirable in line with the Code of Conduct for Pharmacists. Consequently, PSI Council has requested that pharmacists ensure that their practice is guided by the following principles relating to pricing transparency for prescription medicines:

  • The role of the pharmacist is to ensure the rational and responsible use of medicines. Therefore any information provided by pharmacists, on the pricing of medicines supplied on prescription, should encourage the rational use of the medicine(s).
  • In line with principle three of the Code of Conduct, pharmacists are required to “provide honest, relevant, accurate, current and appropriate information to patients regarding the nature, cost, value and benefit of medicines, health-related products and services provided by them.” Pharmacists should therefore ensure that patients are facilitated in the provision of information concerning prices for medicines and services in pharmacies.
  • Transparency of prices of prescription medicines for patients is desirable and any information on pricing provided to patients must be meaningful. The final (retail) price of the medicine is the most meaningful information for patients.
  • Where requested by a patient/their representative, pharmacists should provide the price to the patient/their representative in advance of dispensing their medicine(s). It is acknowledged that the final accurate price may not be possible unless the pharmacist has the prescription.
  • Following the dispensing of medicine(s), pharmacists should provide the patient/their representative with a receipt which itemises the price charged i.e. sets out the price per item dispensed.

In addition, pharmacists are reminded that the PSI published a Medicine Price Listing Clarification in the PSI Newsletter of May 2012. This clarification stated that factual information regarding the prices of prescription only medicines may be lawfully displayed. The advertising of prescription only medicines to the general public is not permitted by the Medicinal Products (Control of Advertising) Regulations 2007; however these regulations do not apply to factual informative announcements, including price lists, provided they include no product claims (i.e. any information should just include the name of the product, its pharmaceutical form and strength, and its price).

The display of such information must not imply that the prescription-only products concerned are available without the presentation of a prescription (or that the emergency supply arrangements would be availed of for the purposes of making a supply). The display should not compare prices of different products, or offer discounts for patients that might encourage them to obtain larger quantities of prescription only medicines than are needed, or than have been prescribed for them. 

(This update was included in Issue 3 of the PSI Newsletter (April) 2014 )