Women suffering from a severely debilitating illness during pregnancy are facing unnecessary delays 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,” Senator Seery Kearney explained, adding: “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.
“However, I’m extremely frustrated to learn that accessing the drug is not proving to be as straightforward for these women as it should be.
“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. 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 so seriously unwell.
“There also appears to be restrictions on how long the scheme will apply to any individual. This is a wholly inadequate response to women who may continue to suffer with this sickness until the day their baby is born.
“A common sense approach has to be adopted here. GPs should be allowed prescribe Cariban as soon as a woman presents suffering from HG. The HSE needs to re-think this, and fast.”