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  • Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) proposal submitted to Minister for Health
  • Successful quit attempts lowest for smokers in lowest socio-economic groups
  • Community pharmacists already provide smoking cessation service to private patients

30 July 2017: Medical card holders should be able to access nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and smoking cessation services from their community pharmacy according to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU). In a proposal submitted to the Minister for Health, the IPU said that such a scheme would reduce the barriers that currently prevent medical card holders accessing help that would greatly improve their health.

The IPU proposes that the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) put in place a scheme to enable people who hold medical cards to access NRT without prescription under their existing GMS eligibility and thereby remove the current barriers to access that exist for them.

A HIQA report from January 2017 highlighted inequalities in smoking cessation. Smoking prevalence is highest and successful quit attempts are lowest for smokers in the lowest socio-economic groups. Commenting on the proposal, Daragh Connolly, IPU President and community pharmacist, said, “The evidence suggests that medical card holders are likely to need support to successfully quit smoking.”

“This is a scheme that can be easily and quickly implemented as from a professional perspective, no further training for pharmacists is required. Pharmacists have been safely providing a smoking cessation service to private patients since 2014,” he added.

“The IPU believes that there should not be barriers on GMS patients accessing smoking cessation services or any other service from their pharmacist. Therefore, we particularly advocate for the roll-out of this service as an after-hours service, as these are times of particular vulnerability for smokers.”

Over one in five (22.7%) people smoke in Ireland, according to the Department of Health’s Healthy Ireland Survey (2015). The National Cancer Strategy recognises that, where healthcare professionals provide smoking cessation advice, support and pharmacological treatment, smoking cessation rates among their patients are doubled.

In conclusion, Mr Connolly said, “Research shows that consumers and patients visit their pharmacies far more frequently than any other part of the healthcare system, with 85 million visits to pharmacies each year making pharmacists the most accessible healthcare providers and the ideal healthcare professionals to offer a smoking cessation service.”


For further information contact: Jim Curran, Director of Communications & Strategy, IPU, Tel: 086 2640 469

Issued by: Paula Curtin, MKC Communications, 087 410 9910