Dáil Éireann - Volume 452 - 16 May, 1995

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

109. Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Health if he will include asthmatic inhalers in the drugs and medicines for long term illnesses scheme; the costs involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8661/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East): The long-term illness scheme entitles persons who suffer from certain specified illness to free drugs and medicines which are prescribed in respect of the particular illnesses and there are no plans to extend the number of illnesses covered by the scheme.

The long-term illness scheme, however, is only one of a number of schemes in operation which provide assistance towards the cost of prescribed drugs and medicines for persons with ongoing medical conditions.

Where an individual or a family is subjected to a significant level of ongoing expenditure on medical expenses — general practitioner fees, prescribed drugs etc. — due to a long-term medical condition these expenses may be [1799] reckoned in determining eligibility for a medical card. In some cases a medical card may issue to a family member on a personal basis. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board to decide.

Persons who suffer from an ongoing medical condition can avail of the drug cost subsidisation scheme which caters for people who do not have a medical card or long-term illness book and are certified as having a long-term medical condition with a regular and ongoing requirement for prescribed drugs and medicines in excess of an amount per month, currently £32.

Persons who qualify for inclusion in this scheme will not have to spend more than £32 in any month on prescribed medication. Under the drug refund scheme which covers expenditure by the whole family, any expenditure on prescribed medication above £90 in a calendar quarter is refunded by the health board.

The information on expenditure on anti-asthmatic drugs available to the Department relates to the general medical services scheme which covers medical card patients. The total 1994 expenditure in respect of anti-asthmatic drugs in the general medical services scheme was £10.7 million. This figure, however, may include expenditure on drugs for persons who do not have asthma but require certain products that are categorised as anti-asthmatic drugs.

I am satisfied that appropriate and comprehensive support is being provided by the State through the existing range of drug schemes to those with medical expenses arising from conditions such as asthma.