The Health Service Executive's chief pharmacist has said Ireland is no longer paying more than the EU average for medicine, with price reductions of up to 85% for some generic drugs.

Shaun Flanagan said the United Kingdom is one of the lowest price markets for generic medicines in the European Union.

He said under the Health Act 2013, the HSE is required to look at prices across the entire European market.

Mr Flanagan said the HSE is going through a programme of setting reference prices for generic drugs, prioritising drugs of highest cost and highest value.

He said: "We're sequentially going down through all of those drugs. At this stage, we have completed 20."

In April 2013, he said the HSE was spending €11m on those drugs, but that €4.9m was being spent in March 2014.

He said this year alone there has been €50m in savings.

Mr Flanagan said: "That's substantial savings across a market which is only about a quarter of the drugs market in Ireland. This is solely related to the off-patent market."

Giving an example of the price reductions, Mr Flanagan said donepezil, a drug for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, has reduced from €95 to around €20.