The Irish Prison Service (IPS) is to spend up to €1.9m on prescription drugs and pharmacy services for inmates in two Dublin jails.
The prison authority is seeking tenders for a contract to dispense and deliver medication and healthcare products to Arbour Hill, where a majority of inmates are sex offenders, and the Dóchas Centre women's prison.
Successful pharmacies will also be expected to make regular visits to the prisons and play a role in the management of antiretroviral treatment at the Dóchas Centre, where a number of inmates have HIV, according to the tender documents.
The cost of supplying methadone for prisoners with drug addictions is not included in the contract.
It is expected that between €725,000 and €1m will be spent on pharmacy goods and services for prisoners at the Dóchas Centre over the duration of the two-year contract and two possible 12-month extensions.
Ninety-seven per cent of the prison population at the Dóchas Centre currently require prescription medication, with an average of 620 individual items dispensed each week.
Eighty-seven per cent of those prisoners are allowed to hold and administer their medications.
Between €625,000 and €900,000 is expected to be spent on prescription medications and pharmacy services at Arbour Hill over the same period.
Eighty-one per cent of inmates at the prison are currently in receipt of prescription drugs on a weekly basis.
The IPS states in the tender that the successful contractor should place emphasis on treating prisoners "as individuals with healthcare needs", irrespective of their offence or "the context in which they themselves may be placed".
"It has long been accepted that primary care in prison should be equivalent to that available in the community," it says.
"The IPS aims to deliver a quality of healthcare reflective of that available to those holding medical cards in the wider community, taking into consideration the constraints that custody imposes.
"Patients in prison have as much right to expect professional standards of healthcare as any member of the public, and it is incumbent on the IPS to ensure that primary healthcare services, including pharmacy services, are of a required standard to meet these expectations."
The deadline for interested pharmacies to respond to the tender is November 12, and it is expected that the successful contractor will begin providing services next year.