By Aoife Hegarty @aoifehegs

The RTÉ Investigations Unit has learned that Ireland’s largest pharmacy group, LloydsPharmacy has repaid the Health Service Executive almost €12 million for dispensing fees which the company incorrectly charged. The irregularities were the subject of an RTÉ Investigation last year.

With 94 branches nationwide LloydsPharmacy is Ireland’s leading pharmacy chain.

Last year the RTÉ Investigations Unit revealed irregularities in the level of dispensing fees being claimed by the pharmacy chain from the HSE. The irregularities centred on phased dispensing fees charged by LloydsPharmacy on their weekly medication management system, MyMed – a modern day equivalent of a pill box that segregates drugs into weekly packs for those on large amounts of medication.

There are very limited circumstances under which a pharmacy can claim additional charges for the phased dispensing of drugs – they include at a doctor’s request, where a drug may have a short shelf life or in exceptional circumstances where a patient may be incapable of managing their medication.

However, documentation provided to the RTÉ Investigations Unit by a whistleblower last year, showed that LloydsPharmacy staff were actively encouraged to widely promote the MyMed system to its customers which generated substantial additional profits for the company.  Each store was provided with monthly targets for the number of customers who had to be converted to the MyMed system and further documentation showed that on repeated occasions LloydsPharmacy customers were provided with a month’s supply of their medication in one go despite payment statements from the HSE showing that phased fees were submitted as if the drugs had been dispensed each week.

RTÉ has learned that following a year long HSE investigation launched by the Primary Care Reimbursement Service, LloydsPharmacy has been found to have over-claimed in the region of €12 million in dispensing fees – it’s believed that sum has now been repaid in full.

While not naming the company, in a statement the HSE said a “satisfactory resolution” had been reached.

A spokesperson for LloydsPharmacy told RTE the matter had been “resolved” between the parties.

In a further development RTÉ has learned that the HSE is investigating up to 5 other pharmacy chains or outlets in relation to dispensing fee claims. The HSE says as the investigations conclude it reserves its position regarding any further actions it may take resulting from the findings of those investigations.