Ireland joins group to negotiate drug prices

Ireland has joined an international alliance designed to strengthen its hand in price negotiations with big pharma in an effort to improve Irish patients’ access to new and innovative drugs.

While Health Minister Simon Harris was unable to achieve the level of savings the other four members of BeNeLuxA have enjoyed by being part of the alliance, he is adamant that working collaboratively will assist Ireland in sourcing medicines at “affordable and sustainable” prices.

Mr Harris said being part of an alliance that represents 50m people instead of just 5, — the other members of BeNeLuxA include Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Austria — means Ireland will have “more leverage” in negotiations.

As well as working together to enhance patients’ access to high-quality and affordable drugs, the coalition will conduct joint health technology assessments, share data and policies, and conduct “horizon scanning” — essentially keeping an eye on what’s coming down the pipeline in terms of new medicines.

Earlier this year, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations published its annual survey on the relative availability of medicines across Europe and found that, in 2017, Ireland ranked just 18th out of 26.

Yesterday the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) said the focus of policymakers and industry “must remain on fixing a slow and inefficient medicines approvals process for Irish patients”.

IPHA research published in April highlighted nine medicines, including ones to treat cardiovascular disease and cancer, that were held up in the reimbursement process.

IPHA chief executive Oliver O’Connor said “we need to fix our own system for approving new medicines”. He said they understand that “scoping work” is underway as a “precursor to engagement with stakeholders”. 

The industry, through IPHA, wants to be part of the solution, he said: “We want to work with Government to help redesign the system for Irish patients.”



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