Reference Pricing

A pricing system has been introduced which means that the HSE will set one price, called the reference price, that it will pay for a group of interchangeable medicines.  Reference Pricing is being introduced one medicine at a time, so not all people, or all medicines, will be affected at once.

The following medicines have been assigned a reference price:

*High Tech Medicines

How does it work?

Firstly, the Health Products Regulatory Authority must publish an Interchangeable List of products - this began in August 2013 with Atorvastatin, and more lists are being published on an ongoing basis. If you are taking a medicine that has an Interchangeable List, your pharmacist may now offer you a generic or alternative version.

From November 2013, the HSE began operating reference prices for atorvastatin, and more medicines will be added to the system on a regular basis. A reference prices means that no matter which version you take, the HSE will pay the pharmacist (or the pharmaceutical wholesalers in the case of high technology medicines) the set or reference price for that group of products. So, you have three options:

  • You can choose the less expensive medicine and save money. If you are using one of the State Drugs Schemes (e.g. Medical Card, Drugs Payment Scheme etc), the HSE will pay the pharmacy pharmacist (or the pharmaceutical wholesalers in the case of high technology medicines) the reference price for this group of medicines.
  • You can choose to buy the medicine on your prescription at its full price.  If you’re using a State Drug Scheme, you’ll pay the difference between the reference price and the retail price.
  • If you are on the Drugs Payment Scheme, please note that the HSE will use the reference price of the medicine group to calculate your monthly drugs costs. In the case of High Technology medicines, patients will have to pay €144 per month

What happens if I need to receive a particular brand of medicine for medical reasons?

Your prescriber will be able to state on the prescription that that particular brand is to be provided.They will write 'Do not Substitute' beside that item on the prescription. If that particular brand costs more than the reference price you will not have to pay the difference.

How will this affect me?

Patients who will be affected by this change in the law and the pricing system will be informed by their GP, by their pharmacist, and through information on this website.

If you have questions about your medication, talk to your GP or your Pharmacist

Download our Patient Guide | Reference Pricing Explainer | More about Generic Medicines