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Govt to maintain clampdown on Versatis pain relief patches

By Juno McEnroe

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted that pain relief patches must be curtailed because of addiction concerns and over subscribing by doctors.

The removal of free Versatis patches for patients has caused outrage and seen unprecedented numbers of people contacted the media as well as politicians.

Thousands have seen their access to the pain relief patches removed “overnight,” claimed Fianna Fáil leader Micháel Martin in the Dáil today during Leaders Questions.

Mr Martin said this was the “cruelest” action and the patches, used by some 25,000 people, had been removed for around 90% of patients.

This was the equivalent of “shutting down an Accident and Emergency” department. Every day was now like a “living hell” for sick patients now affected by the clampdown on usage, it was added.

Numerous cases were mentioned, including a man over 100 years of age who had now lost access to the patches.

This was the biggest issue ever raised on RTE Radio One's Joe Duffy show, it was added.

While the changes were about cutting costs, Mr Martin said, this had caused great pain.

He called for the patch suspensions to be stopped and for “due diligence” to be done on the matter.

“Allow people get their lives back,” declared the opposition leader.

Mr Varadkar replied that he himself had been contacted by patients affected by the changes. He has also spoken to the Health Minister Simon Harris on the matter.

The allocation of patches for patients was like medicine, Mr Varadkar explained.

In Ireland, the specific patches were only prescribed for patients with post- shingles symptoms, but a lot of doctors were now giving them out for other reasons, he said.

Controls were needed otherwise people would become “dependent” on them, he told the Dáil.

Ten times as many people used them here compared to Britain, it was also noted by the Taoiseach.

A process of appeals was now in place and thousands had been put back on patches in recent weeks, he told Mr Martin.