Yes, some medicines may be substituted by your pharmacist. Generic medicines are safe copies of well-known medicines that contain the same active ingredient as the product they are based on, and they are considered just as effective and as safe as the original or brand medicines.  Since 2013, the law in Ireland allows pharmacists to make a substitution in many cases. This is part of getting best value for patients, government and the taxpayer for the price of medicines. Generic medicines usually cost less than the original branded product.   

The different version of a medicine is only offered to you if it does the same job as the one on your prescription, if it has been included on an Interchangeable List published by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and provided that your doctor has not written “Do Not Substitute” on the prescription.   

It may not always be possible to switch to a generic medicine. For a small number of products, and for some people, it is not advisable to take different versions of a medicine. Your doctor and pharmacist will tell you if you should not change to a generic version of a medicine you are taking.   

Your pharmacist should explain, and you are entitled to ask about a substitution of medicines compared to what is written on your prescription and about any related pricing of the medicine.   

The HSE website and the HPRA both have more useful information about generic medicines.   

The pharmacist has a legal and professional responsibility to ensure that all medicines given to you in a pharmacy are safe and appropriate for you to take and that you get appropriate information.   

The pharmacist needs to be able to decide about giving you the appropriate medicine or if they think it is necessary to refer you to another healthcare professional. They may need you to tell them about your medical history and any medicines you are already taking. If used correctly, medicines offer great benefit, but if used incorrectly medicines have the potential to do harm. For example, some medicines should not be taken together because they may not work or because it could be dangerous.   

You should keep in mind that every pharmacy has a patient consultation area where you can have a private discussion with the pharmacist or member of the pharmacy team if you feel this is needed.   

The PSI has published a Patient Charter which contains information on what you can expect from your community pharmacist and how you can support them to offer care and services that are best for you.   

It may happen that a pharmacist decides that it is not appropriate or safe to dispense your legally valid prescription. It is part of the pharmacist’s role, as an expert in medicines, to review each prescription before it is dispensed to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for you to take.   

The pharmacist should explain their actions to you and may refer you to another appropriate healthcare provider or service.

The prices charged for medicines can change from pharmacy to pharmacy. Different pharmacies may charge different prices and so it is helpful to discuss the price of your medicines with the pharmacist, and you can check prices with more than one pharmacy.     

For prescription medicines paid for by the patient, the price normally includes the cost price (the price the pharmacy pays for the medicines), plus a percentage mark-up and a dispensing fee.   

The PSI does not have the power to control the price of medicines in pharmacies, but we believe that people have a right to information about the price of their medicines and this guidance about pricing transparency was given to pharmacists and pharmacies.   

The PSI has published a Patient Charter which contains information on what you can expect from your community pharmacist and how you can support them to offer care and services that are best for you.  

Yes, normally you can use a prescription that is written by a registered practitioner practising in another European Economic Area (EEA) Member State, if it meets certain legal requirements and that the type of medicine is available.   

When you give the prescription to the pharmacist, they will check the prescription to make sure all the legal requirements are met and they must also be satisfied that the medicine, including dose and quantity is safe and suitable for you to take. To do this they may need to ask you questions, discuss the treatment with you or contact your doctor to check details.

You will have to pay for the medicines that are being given to you.

Some medicines may only be dispensed by the pharmacist if the prescribing doctor is registered in Ireland. These medicines include ‘controlled drugs.

The pharmacist should be able to assist you if you have questions about this type of prescription.   

Prescriptions written by prescribers outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) are not legally valid in Ireland and pharmacists are not allowed to dispense them.

If there is medicine that you need that has been prescribed by a doctor or other healthcare practitioner who is not registered in an EEA country, you should make an appointment with an Irish registered doctor to review your medicines, your condition and provide appropriate advice.

You should normally receive a patient leaflet or detailed information on the package for every prescription medicine you are dispensed by a pharmacist. This information includes vital details about the correct dose, instructions for use and potential side effects of the medicine.

It is important to take the time to understand your medicine, and to know how to take it properly. The pharmacist should also explain this to you.

Information about medicines can also be printed for you if needed. The HPRA website or the EMA website can be accessed and additional leaflets or further information about your medicines can be read and printed.

Yes, you have the right to ask for a copy of your medical records in the pharmacy you have been attending. Depending on your medical history it may be useful to have these available if you plan to change to a new pharmacy. It might be a good idea to arrange this in advance with the pharmacist because they might need time to have your records ready for you. It is part of the pharmacist’s role to keep your personal records up-to-date and confidential.   
   
Pharmacists have a professional duty of confidentiality to their patients, and like anyone holding personal information, pharmacists must comply with Data Protection legislation to ensure that people have privacy rights concerning their personal data.   
   
For further information on your rights under the Data Protection Acts, you might want to contact the office of the Data Protection Commission.

Pharmacists have a professional duty of confidentiality to their patients, and like anyone holding personal information, pharmacists must comply with Data Protection legislation. Data Protection legislation is in place to ensure that people have their personal data kept private and secure.

A pharmacist may be requested to share a patient’s healthcare records or information for different professional reasons. Doctors, carers and family members might make a request for the details. They may ask for information to be provided verbally or in writing. Under normal circumstances, the pharmacist should get clear consent from you, as the patient, before they share your information.  

Sometimes, a pharmacist may be required to share your information with someone else without patient consent and this has been allowed for in circumstances under Data Protection law. Examples of when it may be appropriate includes:   

  • where the disclosure is required for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investigating offences against the law,   
  • where the pharmacist is satisfied that the information is given to prevent injury, other damage to the health of a person, or otherwise to protect the vital interests of the patient. This might include a request from another healthcare professional for a patient history when a patient is seeking or undergoing medical treatment.   

A patient who is 16 years or older has the right to refuse access to their medical records by a parent or guardian.   

For further information on your rights under the Data Protection Acts, you might want to contact the office of the Data Protection Commission.

The PSI is the appropriate body, as the pharmacy regulator, to which any person can raise a concern or make a complaint about a pharmacist or a pharmacy.   
   
If you are unhappy with the service or care you have received in a pharmacy, you should ask to speak with the pharmacist in charge at the pharmacy. This person will be known as a Supervising or Superintendent Pharmacist. If this does not resolve the matter, and you are concerned about the behaviour, conduct or practice of a pharmacist, or the service you have received in a pharmacy, you can contact us at the PSI.

Our Complaints and Concerns section has more useful information on this topic and a guide that assists you with making a complaint.