Northern Ireland

Health Survey Northern Ireland suggests 53% of respondents taking prescription drugs

Drugs Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The survey suggests that the vast majority taking prescription drugs are doing so on a long-term basis

More than half of those questioned for a Department of Health survey in Northern Ireland said they were taking prescription drugs.

The Health Survey Northern Ireland, which is published annually, also suggested the vast majority taking medicines are doing so long term.

The survey of just over 4,000 people, took place between April 2014 and March 2015.

It suggests 25% of 16-24-year-olds are on prescribed drugs.

However, the number is much higher in the older age category, with 91% of over 75s on prescription medication.

Prescription charges were scrapped in Northern Ireland in 2010.

In February 2015, the then Health Minister, Jim Wells, proposed the reintroduction of the charges to pay for a new specialist drugs fund in Northern Ireland.

It would pay for drugs that are too expensive or too specific to be licensed for use.

It is estimated that when prescription charges were applied in the past they covered around 3.5% of the prescribed medicine bill due to exemptions such as age.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption In February 2015, the then Health Minister, Jim Wells, proposed the reintroduction of the charges to pay for a new specialist drugs fund in Northern Ireland

The Department of Health hopes to raise between £5m and £10m through some form of charging.

The results of a three-month consultation that took place earlier this year is expected to be released soon.

The first suggestion was to reintroduce the same system that was in place in 2010, charging £3 an item.

The second option was to adopt a similar system but increase the number of exemptions.

The final option is to introduce a universal charge.

This would be set at a much lower rate of say 50p per prescription but there would be no exemptions.

The survey also included questions on a variety of topics including, obesity, smoking and sexual health.

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