Prices of generic drugs in Ireland are forecast to plummet, following the establishment of a new pharmacy in Dublin which is selling medicines at the price levels in Northern Ireland, or even lower, giving customers in the South savings of up to 80%.

On average, generic drug prices in Ireland are three times higher than in the UK, and many Irish patients travel to Northern Ireland to get their prescriptions filled much more cheaply. But the newly-established Healthwave pharmacy in Dundrum is pledging savings of up to 500 euros a year to customers who pay a 25-euro annual fee to join its HealthPass service.

Healthwave chief executive Shane O’Sullivan says he will also be offering HealthPass members further discounts on their medications at the till, and that he will be able to offer such low prices by focusing mainly on generics, keeping overheads low and passing on all of the wholesale discounts which Healthwave receives.

Any HealthPass member who does not save as much as their membership fee in a year will have their 25 euros refunded, he adds.

The move has been welcomed as “a gamechanger” by the Consumer Association of Ireland, whose chief executive, Dermot Jewell, forecast to the Irish Independent newspaper that will lead to prices tumbling as pharmacists compete for business.

“This is the first move of a very serious competitive nature within the pharmaceutical sector for many years. It’s very well-intentioned. The reality behind the pricing structure and the transparency of it is very impressive,” said Mr Jewell.

With more than 300 people signing up for HealthPass in Dundrum on one day, Mr O’Sullivan says he now plans to open Healthwave pharmacies offering the same service in Cork and Galway, and that he will also be introducing an app that will allow customers to re-order their medicines online and provide them with reminder alerts.

- Last May, legislation was passed by both houses of Ireland’s parliament (Oireachtas) to encourage wider use of generics, including generic substitution. Currently, generics account for just 18% of medicines dispensed throughout the country, compared with 80% in the UK. And one-third of Ireland’s medical cardholders, who now represent more than half the population, are not using generics, according to official figures.