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The Minister for Health has intervened on the controversial changes to the reimbursement of Lidocaine 5 per cent medicated plaster (Versatis®), which is licensed for the treatment of pain associated with post-herpatic neuralgia.

The changes to reimbursement from the HSE have been effective for all newly initiated patients since the 1st September 2017 and since the 30th November for all existing patients, who are required to go through a complicated online approval process to qualify for further reimbursement.

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has welcomed the Minister’s comments in the ongoing difficulties regarding access to the pain-relieving medicine Versatis patches, when he said that he has directed the HSE to take a compassionate approach towards people suffering chronic pain who no longer have access to Versatis.

The pharmacist representative group has stated that, while the need for appropriate budget management and rational prescribing can be appreciated, patient welfare must always come first. The IPU reported numerous calls from pharmacists who have been distraught at having been put in the position of explaining to patients suffering from often crippling pain that they can no longer access their medicine, Versatis, on the HSE Schemes.

IPU Secretary General, Darragh O’Loughlin, said: “We are concerned that the restriction of a medicine that has brought great relief to so many patients seems to be based solely on the back of a desk-based exercise, with little regard for the input of patients and clinicians.

“In any decision regarding reimbursement of a medicinal product, such as Versatis patches, the experiences of individual patients suffering from chronic pain, and the integrity and expertise of the clinicians caring for them, must also be taken into account”.

“What is required is a sensible approach and the introduction of streamlined procedures to ensure that patients who need this medicine can access it without further barriers being put in their way.  The hundreds of patients who have spoken out about their suffering and the impact on their lives as a result of the HSE restricting this treatment must be heard and treated in a compassionate way”, he concluded.