The Government is moving to reduce the cost of the medication Cariban which helps prevent extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed.
A supply of Cariban can cost up to €45 a week, or between €1,500 and €3,000 over the course of a pregnancy, which is prohibitive for many women.
As a result of the high price, many pregnant women are resorting to buying it abroad and from strangers online, doctors have said.
Following several years of campaigning by backbench politicians including Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee, Mr Donnelly has confirmed he has ordered officials to find a solution to the adverse cost of the medication.
It is not clear whether the State will be in a position to fully subsidise the cost of the medication or only partly so. Mr Donnelly has told a private meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that there is “good news” coming soon in relation to helping ease the cost of the medication.
The Irish Examiner has learned that Mr Donnelly has asked the HSE and the Women’s Health task force to find a solution to the cost issue in a speedy manner.
Unlike other drugs which the State pays for in total or partly subsidises, Cariban is classified as a supplement and this is presenting a difficulty in delivering a mechanism for reducing the cost.
According to sources, Mr Donnelly is convinced of the merits of the drug which many women say is their only relief during pregnancy, and is “very keen” to deliver a remedy very quickly.
At present, it is not available under the medical card or any community medical scheme, such as the drugs payment scheme, which limits the amount spent by private patients to €144 per month.
It is estimated that between one in every 100 and one in 200 women suffers from severe vomiting during pregnancy, known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum or HG, which can be profoundly debilitating. In opposition, Mr Donnelly was among a number of politicians who said the drug should be available through the medical card also.
In October 2018, Mr Donnelly told the then-Health Minister Simon Harris that all costs including, appointments, specialised care, drug treatment and hospitalisation, which fall within the parameters of maternity care, should also be universally available.
Hyperemesis Ireland, a national charity supporting suff