03 Oct 2022

Exclusive: How much Carlow and Kilkenny smokers cost the taxpayer

The cost includes treatments like nicotine patches, chewing gum, nasal sprays, and lozenges

Carlow Carlow Carlow

There were 4,166 prescriptions for 1,474 “unique patients”

Smokers with medical cards in Kilkenny and Carlow cost taxpayers more than €1.2 million between 2013 and 2016 as they tried to kick the habit with treatments including chewing gum and nicotine patches.

New figures reveal the Health Service Executive coughed-up €225,000 on average each year since 2013 for prescriptions for therapies and medications for the treatment of nicotine addiction.


This includes nicotine patches, chewing gum, nasal sprays, and lozenges; as well as the prescription medication Vareniciline, which has the effect of reducing cravings.

The data from the HSE’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) was supplied following a Freedom of Information request.

Nicotine Replacement Therapies are available to medical card holders free of charge with a doctor’s prescription.

There were 4,166 prescriptions for 1,474 “unique patients” with medical cards in 2016 for Nicotine Replacement Therapies with 711 prescriptions of Varenicline for 391 people in Kilkenny and Carlow.

The cost of providing the products to medical card holders looking to quit smoking in Kilkenny and Carlow was €256,211 in 2013; €189,451 in 2014; €224,768 in 2015 and €232,547 in 2016.

Meanwhile, prescription drugs used for the treatment of drugs and alcohol addiction among Kilkenny and Carlow’s medical card holders cost the HSE almost €35,000 over four years.

The prescriptions to help alcohol-dependent patients included Disulfiram and Acamprosate. Disulfiram works by causing a series of extremely unpleasant physical reactions if you drink any alcohol, such as: nausea, chest pain, vomiting and dizziness.

Acamprosate works by affecting levels of a chemical in the brain known as gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA). GABA is thought to be partially responsible for inducing a craving for alcohol.

Others include Naltrexone which is a medication that can be used when you have not taken heroin for several weeks but are worried that you may relapse and take heroin again.

Naltrexone blocks the effects of heroin on your brain, so even if you take heroin you will not experience a high.


The PCRS scheme includes medical card services provided by doctors and pharmacists and prescribed drugs and medicines provided to medical card holders.

Doctors and pharmacists have contracts with the HSE to provide these services and the PCRS makes the payments on behalf of the HSE.

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