More than half of Northern Ireland is taking prescription drugs, survey finds

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1st December 2015 13:32 - Pharmaceutical

A recent survey by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland has discovered that more than half of people in Northern Ireland are taking More than half of Northern Ireland is taking prescription drugs, survey findsprescription drugs.

The annually published survey – entitled the Health Survey Northern Ireland’– has revealed that a large percentage of those taking prescription medicines are doing so long term.

The survey was conducted between April 2014 and March 2015 and interviewed more than 4,000 people.

According to the findings, 25 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24 are taking prescription medicine. However, the percentage of those within the older age groups is significantly higher, with 91 per cent of those over 75 taking prescription medication.

In 2010, prescription charges were scrapped in Northern Ireland. However, in February 2015, Jim Wells, who was then the Health Minister, proposed that prescription charges should be reintroduced to bank roll a new specialist drugs fund in Northern Ireland. The prospective fund would be used to pay for medicine that is too expensive or niche to be licenced for use.

According to estimations, prescription charges covered approximately 3.5 per cent of the prescribed medicine bill, due to exemptions such as age, when they were introduced in the past.

The Department of Health wishes to raise between £5 million and £10 million through charges of some kind.

The findings of a three month long public consultation, which took place earlier in 2015, is anticipated to be released imminently.

The first proposal was to reintroduce the same system which was in place 5 years ago – a change of £3 per item. The second proposal was to introduce a similar system to that of 2010, but add more exemptions. The third proposal was to introduce a universal fee, however, this would be a very low charge and there would be no exemptions.

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