Drug prices vary widely in pharmacies across Ireland

Patients in the Republic of Ireland could halve their medicine bills by shopping around, a new report says.

A survey by the National Consumer Agency found that consumers are being charged more than double the price for the same drugs, depending on which pharmacy they go to.

One drug, used to treat stomach ulcers, could cost anywhere between 22 and 49 euros in County Waterford.

The NCA said people should compare prices before buying.

The agency got the figures using survey responses from 45 pharmacies, some of which were chain stores and some independent.

They recorded the prices of 39 branded drugs on 6 February 2013.

Dublin was the most expensive county in which to buy prescription medicines, while the cheapest surveyed was Galway.

In the Republic of Ireland, people pay privately for medication and treatments.

No household pays more than 144 euros a month for medicine, as the taxpayer picks up the tab for costs over that.

But Fergal O'Leary of the NCA said people generally do not realise that medicine prices can vary from pharmacy to pharmacy.

He said: "There's nothing really that you can take for granted. Our advice to people is that they really need to get quotes in their own individual areas.

"It's our belief that not many consumers at all are aware that there's a difference.

"Individual pharmacists really do seem to charge whatever they want, but consumers spending, say, 30 or 50 euros a month out of their own pocket stand a very, very good chance of saving a significant amount of money by shopping around."

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