Free sunscreen “for transplant recipients with GMS eligibility only”

Organ transplant patients with medical cards may now be prescribed sunscreen by consultants
The cost of certain sunscreen products can now be reimbursed by the HSE when prescribed to someone who has had an organ transplant – as long as they have a medical card (i.e. have GMS eligibility).

The HSE’s Medicines Management Programme (MMP) has clarified the position by publishing an advisory review on the reimbursement of sunscreen this month (August 2017).

The case for transplant patients
Following a transplant, immunosuppressant medications are prescribed to reduce the body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ. However, these essential medicines also increase the skin’s susceptibility to harmful UV radiation from the sun, making immunosuppressed patients more vulnerable to skin cancer.

Last year, the ISF called on the HSE to allow doctors to prescribe sunscreen for vulnerable patient groups, like transplant patients, to allow them to offset the high cost of creams essential for protecting their skin.

MMP says that high-quality sunscreens are ‘low-cost’
The ISF initially welcomed the news as a positive sign that the HSE is willing to look at the specific needs of particularly vulnerable patient groups and to find solutions where high out-of-pocket cost presents a barrier to protecting the skin against cancer.

However, it has subsequently emerged that only people who have had organs transplants and who are medical card holders may access sunscreens for free, and then only through the Discretionary Hardship Arrangements (which involves a community pharmacist taking certain details and filling in a form).

While overall the move to make sunscreen available, for free, to some transplant recipients is a positive one, CEO of the ISF David McMahon says that the move does not go far enough and should have been extended to all vulnerable organ transplant patients.

For transplant patients without a medical card, who access their treatments through the Drug Payment Scheme (DPS), the MMP has concluded that, “as high quality products can be purchased at low cost in many pharmacies and supermarkets”, i.e. that DPS patients can afford to buy sunscreen themselves; a disappointing outcome for many people who feel that they are unfairly expected to pay while others have access to free products.

Checklist of what you need to qualify for free sunscreen: ask yourself
A: Have you had an organ transplant?
B: Have you a medical card?
C: Have you a prescription from a consultant dermatologist or a transplant specialist?
D: Has your pharmacist filled in the Discretionary Hardship form?

What type of sunscreen products are covered?
Products covered must be:
SPF 50+ only
have UVA protection
be a “cost-effective volume product” (i.e. 200ml or 400ml bottles or tubes)
Only cost up to a maximum of €9.99 per 200ml (or under €50.00 a litre)

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