How to get your prescription medication in Ireland

Person holding meds, prescription medication in Ireland

Winter season is cold season! Do you know how to get your prescription medication in Ireland yet?

As I’m writing this article I’m wiping my running nose, huddled under a bunch of warm blankets. My cold apparently decided to be resistant to the regular medicine you can get over the counter at the pharmacist, so I will need to get prescription medicine at some point. So now, I’m sitting here in my bed, nursing my impending headache and wonder how people from foreign countries can get their prescription medication here in Ireland. 

If you are ordinarily resident, meaning that you either have been living or intend to live in Ireland for at least a year, you are entitled to free public hospital services and subsidised prescribed drugs as well as certain medical aids and appliances. To establish that you are ordinarily resident in Ireland, you must show the Health Service Executive (HSE) specific documentation that confirm your claim:

  • Proof of property purchase or rental, including evidence that the property in question is the person’s principal residence
  • Evidence of transfer of funds, bank accounts, pensions etc.
  • A residence permit or visa
  • A work permit or visa, statements from employers etc
  • In some instances, the signing of an affidavit (a sworn written statement) by the applicant is necessary

Medical Card

If you have a medical card issued by the HSE you can receive certain health services free of charge. Prescribed medication is covered by the card as well, though some small prescription charges may apply (no more than €2). Normally, your dependent spouse or partner and your children are also covered for the same range of health services. You can only get a medical card if your income is below a certain level for your family size. If you do not qualify for a medical card on income grounds, you may be able to get a GP visit card, but this card does not cover the costs of prescription medicine.

Other Schemes

People suffering from certain chronic illnesses can get free medication as well as medical and surgical appliances for the treatment of that condition under the Long Term Illness Scheme. If you, or rather your illness qualify, you will get a long-term illness book. It lists the medication for the treatment of your condition, which will be provided to you free of charge. Every other prescription you still need to pay the normal way.

If you are not covered by a medical card or any other scheme, you can register for the Drugs Payment Scheme which limits the monthly cost of prescription medicine to €124 for you and your family. If you pay over the maximum, for example, you can apply for a refund of the amount over the threshold.

prescription medication in Ireland

Where to get prescribed medication

In general, prescribed medication is provided by retail pharmacies. GPs may provide medication directly to patients if the GP’s practice centre is three miles or more from the nearest retail pharmacist. Hospitals and other specialist institutions can also provide medication directly if needed. The rules about free and subsidised medication are the same regardless of provider. Bear in mind that pharmacies have specific opening times – they are not open 24/7. If you’re in urgent need of some medicine late in the night, you must go to the nearest accident and emergency hospital.

Most prescriptions are valid for up to six months from the date they are written. After that time it is not valid anymore, even if all the medication prescribed was not fully distributed.

Cross-border prescription

If you have a prescription made by a doctor in the European Economic Area (EEA), the prescription is valid in all other EEA countries (which Ireland is a part of) if it contains certain information. 

Prescriptions written outside of the EEA are not legally valid in Ireland and pharmacists are not allowed to dispense them. If there is something that you need that has been prescribed by a doctor or other healthcare practitioner who is not registered in an EEA country, you should make an appointment with an Irish registered doctor to review your medication, your condition and provide appropriate advice.

There is no specific form or format required in order to use a prescription in another EEA country but it must contain specific information about the patient, doctor and medication prescribed.

Patient Details
  • Surname and first name written in full (not initials)
  • Date of birth
Details of the prescribing doctor
  • Surname and first name written in full
  • Professional qualification
  • Details for direct contact (email and telephone or fax including international prefix)
  • Work address (including the country)
  • Signature
  • Date the prescription is issued
Prescription Detail
  • The common name should be used rather than the brand name, which may be different in another country. (If a specific brand is medically necessary the prescription should include a brief statement of the reason.) There are International Nonproprietary Names recommended by the World Health Organisation which should be used where possible. In the case of biological medicinal products, brand names may be used.
  • The format of the product, for example, whether it is in the form of tablets or solution
  • The quantity and strength
  • The dosage or instructions for use

Some medication may not be authorised for sale or may not be available in another country within the EEA. 

Not all of these details are required for getting prescription medication in Ireland so, if you intend to use a prescription in another country, you should check that your doctor here has included all the necessary information listed above.

About the author

Jacqueline Russe

Jacqueline is a German journalist and editor for Babylon Radio who likes comics, manga and video games. She is a state-certified translator for both English and German, currently working on her Bachelor's in Technical Translation.

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