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HSE launches fraud probe into pharmacy after allegations of false prescriptions scam

Journal.ie logo Journal.ie 13/08/2019 Garreth MacNamee
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THE HSE HAS launched an investigation into a pharmacy in the east of the country after allegations that it has defrauded the health service out of tens of thousands of euro, TheJournal.ie can reveal. 

The pharmacy regularly fills the prescriptions for residents of a number of local nursing homes in the area. However, in recent weeks, the HSE has become aware of an anomaly whereby there were more scripts filled than people at the nursing homes. 

The alleged malpractice surrounds a pharmacy practice known as phased dispensing. 

Phased dispensing is used to prevent excessive or incorrect dosing by the patient. Instead of giving patients a month’s supply of their tablets, they are given one week’s supply at a time. 

The HSE is investigating claims made by the pharmacy as far back as 2013. The pharmacy can initially claim for €5 for the first dispensing fee. It can then claim over €3 for each additional phased claim. 

Separately, the HSE is currently in the process of clawing back €10 million in dispensing fees it believes a number of pharmacies overclaimed. The HSE is carrying out a much wider investigation into a number of pharmacies which it suspects may have overclaimed for prescription charges.

A number of pharmacies have also been brought to court by the HSE in a bid to recoup this cash. 

The proprietor of the pharmacy under investigation has been suspended from practice following a garda investigation into alleged illegal possession of prescription medications. 

The man, who owns a number of pharmacies in the east of the country, has been suspended from practising as a pharmacist. A check of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland’s registry confirmed that to be the case.

The HSE was made aware of the allegations last month and is now investigating the claims. The issue could be forwarded on to gardaí if the HSE can substantiate the link between the pharmacist and the bogus claims for money.

Nursing homes across the area are also being contacted by the HSE. The health service is trying to find out exactly what medications were requested by service users. They will then cross reference this with the claims made by the pharmacy.

A spokesperson for the HSE said: “The Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) cannot comment on any individual issue which is being processed with any primary care contractor.”

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