Drug prices set to be slashed as Ireland agrees alliance

The Government has claimed drug prices will be slashed for patients in the coming years as part of a new deal with four other smaller EU nations to jointly negotiate with pharmaceutical firms for life-saving treatments.

Health Minister Simon Harris will announce the plan at Cabinet today, during a meeting which will also see a report warning that a hard Brexit could cost Ireland up to €18bn and news that 1,000 more families are now receiving extra childcare support.

In recent months Mr Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have have sought to forge alliances with other EU nations when it comes to negotiating drug prices. The move was partially in response to the recent row over the cost of the cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi, and other life-saving medications which the HSE has to negotiate with firms to obtain while balancing value for money for the taxpayer and which drugs it can afford.

Last year, EU members agreed the Valletta Declaration in Malta, which while saying member states would make attempts to work together to lower costs was not a legally binding deal.

However, in a move based on the declaration, Mr Harris will today say Ireland has agreed a deal in principle with the Benelux A countries — Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Austria — to formally negotiate as a single group with pharmaceutical firms. The decision to agree a deal with the four EU nations will be formally agreed later this year, with Mr Harris due to visit both Belgium and the Netherlands for the St Patrick’s Day festivities next month.

While it will not automatically lead to a reduction in drug prices, the decision to negotiate as a group is expected to help Ireland as it will mean firms will have to offer better deals in order to access a larger population bloc.

Meanwhile, today’s meeting is also expected to be told by Business Minister Heather Humphreys about a Government-commissioned report by Copenhagen Economists which has predicted a hard Brexit could cost Ireland up to €18bn and 20,000 jobs by 2030.

The meeting will also be told by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone that 1,000 more families are now accessing affordable childcare supports from the State.

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