Update 12.37pm: The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has today welcomed the announcement of an agreement between IPHA, representing the pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the Government to reduce the price of medicines.
The group said that it is good news for patients and good news for taxpayers.
However, the IPU expressed serious concern at the short lead-in time, which will mean that pharmacists with existing stocks will be financially hit.
“This is a good deal for patients and a good deal for the State, who will save €785m over the next four years, of which pharmacists will make a significant contribution,” said Eoghan Hanly, chairman of the IPU’s Pharmacy Contractors’ Committee.
“The IPU is extremely concerned, however, at the short notice of the introduction of the changes, which are set to be implemented from August 1, 2016.
“This means that the medicines, which pharmacists stock on their shelves for patients on behalf of the HSE, will now be paid for by the HSE at the new lower rates, despite having been purchased by pharmacists at the higher prices which were previously agreed between the HSE and the drug companies.
“This is an intolerable situation, which further penalises pharmacists, who have already suffered successive rounds of pay reductions under the FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) legislation.”
Big pharmaceutical firms have done a deal with the Government which will save €785m on the State's drugs bills.
The four-year agreement with 38 companies will set prices at an average of 14 European countries saving about €200m a year.
Last year the state spent about €1.7bn on high-value drugs and medicines from big pharma.
Dr Leisha Daly, president of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) who was involved in the negotiations, said the deal was the largest single savings package for drugs the state has ever secured.
"It is essential that patients have early access to life-saving and life-enhancing new medicines. This agreement is the best way to make that happen," she said.
"It offers a clear process and sustainable pricing so that new medicines can be made available quickly to patients in Ireland.
"With this agreement in place, patients and their doctors can rightly expect that priority will be given to funding innovative, new medicines in the health services."
Minister Harris says the savings will enable the State to fund the cost of some new drugs.
He said: "I was very fearful, as I think were the Department, that is we continued on the trajectory before this arrangement, with constant rising of prices and a pipeline of new drugs, where were we going to find the resources to provide it?
"So what this deal does it to provide that headroom as new drugs come on stream, we want our patients in this country to access new and innovative drugs. We've a very good record in that regard, that we have the headroom to do that."
The deal involves 38 pharmaceutical firms.
Prices of medicines will be based on the average cost of the same drugs in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.