Women suffering from a severely debilitating illness during pregnancy are facing unnecessary delays and expense to accessing medication, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Dublin Senator Mary Seery Kearney said that she has been in touch with a number of women suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), which causes severe sickness and vomiting during pregnancy, who are in desperate need of medication to alleviate their symptoms.
“Cariban is a drug which can really help women who are trying to function with this sickness, and it was previously unavailable on the drug payment scheme or medical card. Budget 2023 provided funding of €1 million to facilitate reimbursement of the drug, with women able to avail of the drug free of charge from this month.
“Budget 2023 committed to providing Cariban free of charge to women from the 1st January this year, yet when women have sought to avail of this provision, they are delayed in getting access to the scheme by the burdensome red tape, and when they have satisfied the criteria they are still subject to the €80 per month drugs payment scheme excess.
“I understand from pharmacists that while the drug will be made available to patients who meet the criteria under Community Drug Schemes, it must, in the first instance, be prescribed by a consultant obstetrician. The HSE will subsequently accept a GP prescription further to the initial hospital prescription.
“The consultant obstetrician must fill out an initial application form in order to approve reimbursement of Cariban for the patient. This is a needless extra layer of red tape which is causing unnecessary distress for women who are already dealing with a most debilitating condition.
“Not all women have direct access to consultant obstetricians. Many choose to receive combined care through their GPs and community midwives and most women will not see a consultant until they are 12 weeks pregnant, particularly those using the public healthcare system. I have heard from women in recent days reliant on the public health system who have been on Cariban for a number of weeks but are still waiting for their consultant to fill out their forms. This drug is often needed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy when HG can be severe. It is simply unfair to expect them to try and schedule an appointment with a consultant for the purposes of a prescription, particularly so when they are seriously unwell.
“And when they are finally approved for the financial support, as it is not a so called long-term illness, it comes under the drugs payments scheme that requires a payment of €80 per month. That leads to a cost of up to €800 per pregnancy for the many women who have to take it for the duration of their pregnancy.
“In addition, there is no provision for retrospective compensation for monies already spent buying Cariban prior to approval for admission to the scheme.
“A common sense approach has to be adopted here. GPs should be allowed prescribe Cariban as soon as a woman presents suffering from HG and any costs for this vital medication must be waived. The HSE needs to re-think this, and fast.”