Lessons must be learned from the “dysfunctional” drugs selection process, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association has said.
The association, which represents the international research-based pharmaceutical industry in Ireland, welcomed confirmation from the HSE yesterday that it will fund nine delayed medicines.
After getting clarity from the Department of Health on funding, the HSE said the life-changing drugs, including those that treat cancer and heart disease, would be available later this year.
“The process will be expedited, completed as soon as is feasibly possible, and some of the treatments will be available towards the end of September 2017,” said the HSE, adding that
it would pay for the drugs this year from within its available resources.
Health Minister Simon Harris said the speedy provision of the drugs was a priority so that doctors and patients had access to them as soon as possible.
However, IPHA chief executive Oliver O’Connor said patients had been waiting too long for these medicines that were available in most other European countries.
“Lessons have to be learned from this dysfunctional process. The assessment and approvals process must be speeded up. It must be orderly and predictable, with clear communication,” he said.
“It cannot be that decisions on new medicines should involve political pressure, upset patients in street demonstrations, frustrated doctors, and media storms.”
Ultimately, clear political direction had to be given by the health minister to improve the process.
Mr O’Connor said IPHA companies had provided €785m in savings over four years to create budget headroom for new medicines.
He said spending on drugs as a proportion of the country’s health budget, at 14%, was less than the EU average of 19%.
“Under our agreement, prices have been cut twice in the last 12 months to ensure they are no more than the average of 14 EU member states,” said Mr O’Connor.
Labour’s health spokesman Alan Kelly said it was unfortunate that patients had been caught up in the crossfire of this embarrassing dispute between the HSE and the Department of Health.
Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said the drug companies were holding the country to ransom because they provided a lot of jobs.
“We should not have to pay through the nose for our medicines because of that,” said Ms Shortall, who wants other ways of sourcing cheaper drugs to be considered.
She said that one good idea talked about by the Government was getting European co-operation on drug prices. Another was sub-contracting medicines from the National Health Service in Britain.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.