Nearly 50,000 Irish patients received free ED (ED) medication last year – nearly six points higher than in 2016.
The administration of ED drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra to 47,997 medical card holders cost the taxpayer around 2.1 million euros during 2017, bringing the total expenditure on these drugs under the plan to 44 million euros over the past eight years.
However, there has been a significant decline in drug ownership in recent years. The Viagra patent expired in June 2013, allowing doctors to prescribe cheaper generic alternatives.
It was also announced in March that physicians were no longer allowed to register Cialis for card holders. It lasts longer than other ED drugs, but is much more expensive – costs up to € 33 per pack, compared to just € 8 for generic versions.
Thus, the cost of providing medical card patients with erectile dysfunction drugs was more than half of the previous figure of 4.5 million euros.
Records published by the HSE under the Freedom of Information Act show that the local health department (LHO) area that can boast the highest number of medical card holders in obtaining ED drugs last year was in Northern Dublin.
A total of 2,400 people were prescribed ED drugs on a medical card in this area during the year 2017, an increase of 7pc the previous year. It cost the taxpayer € 104,680.
Northern Dublin was closely followed by the North Cork Lee Health Zone, where 2,395 patients received drugs for ED, up 4pc from 2016, at a cost of € 112,159.
Approximately 2,376 Galway medical card holders received ED drugs in 2017 at a cost of € 103,225, while 2,189 patients took the drugs under the program at Limerick at a price of € 101,651.
The LHO area with the lowest number of medical patients recorded by ED drugs last year was West Cork.
In the region only 503 people received a boost from the drugs under the program at a price of 19,752 euros.