The HSE has defended Ireland's track record of providing access to new drugs when it responded to a claim by a pharmaceutical industry group that patients waited around a year and a half longer than their European counterparts to get the same medicines.
The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) based their claim on an analysis of 15 medicines which have completed their pharmacoeconomic assessment in Ireland but have yet to be reimbursed by the HSE.
The IPHA found that patients in Ireland have been waiting on average 843 days to get access to the same medicines, compared to patients in other countries who waited around 289 days from the date of licensing by the European Medicines Agency - a difference of 18 months.
Five of the 15 medicines included in the analysis are either fully or partially made in Ireland and nine are for cancer. Two are for multiple sclerosis, two are for cardiovascular disease and two are for gastrointestinal diseases.
Responding, the HSE said Ireland's track record in relation to access to new drugs needs to be considered on a wider basis than just 15 or so products currently going through the assessment process.
“New medicines are continually being added to the reimbursement list in Ireland including 30 new drugs in 2018, and 26 new drugs so far in 2019.
“These drugs include some very high profile expensive medicines for rare diseases and cancer treatments."
The health authority pointed out that it spends more than €2bn per annum on medicines and reimburses thousands of products on behalf of patients in Ireland.
“Our priority at all times is to provide access to effective medicines for patients while at the same time providing value for money in terms of cost-effectiveness to the health service."
The IPHA that represents the originator biopharmaceutical industry in Ireland, released details of the analysis at its Innovate for Live conference in Dublin.
Prices for innovative drugs in Ireland are calculated at the average of the price in 14 EU countries and the analysis found that, on average, each of the 15 medicines had so far been reimbursed in 10 out of the 14 reference countries.
Ahead of a new agreement on the pricing and supply of medicines, the IPHA called for an explicit medicines policy to fix access and funding problems and “future-fit” the biopharmaceutical industry.
The HSE said it looks forward to exploring every avenue with the pharmaceutical industry to improve access to medicines, particularly evidence-based measures fo clinical effectiveness and pricing strategies that represent value for money.
IPHA president, Aidan Lynch, said Ireland is “slow and late” when it comes to introducing new medicines into the health services: “We must accelerate access to new medicines for patients and secure pricing and funding certainty so medicines are both affordable and available."