Lifesaving drugs caught up in ‘funding logjam’

Minister for Health Simon Harris

Lifesaving drugs have been caught up in a funding logjam as the HSE fears the cost involved could adversely affect existing services.

Nine new hi-tech drugs were recommended for approval by the HSE, subject to additional funding being provided.

The drugs include new treatments for cancer and heart conditions. The HSE confirmed the cost over five years would be around €117m.

The health authority said it had been asked to fund the drugs this year from available existing resources.

“The critical challenge for the HSE regarding the funding of these nine drugs is not necessarily the remainder of 2017 but the funding required for the full 12 months of next year,” said the HSE.

It has asked the Department of Health for “clarity” on funding arrangements for the drugs next year and beyond.

“This clarity is important to ensure that any decision to fund these new drugs will not adversely impact existing services provided to patients and clients,” it stated.

The Department of Health said discussions with the HSE on the funding implications for the drugs were continuing.

It said any funding decisions must be affordable and sustainable in 2017 and into the future.

The department said the decision on the reimbursement of any medicine was a matter for the HSE.

“Minister for Health Simon Harris has asked that this issue be resolved as a matter of urgency so that patients are not adversely affected,” a statement added.

Labour Party health spokesman Alan Kelly said some of the drugs had been caught in the funding logjam for as long as 12 months.

He said the HSE took ten months to refer the lifesaving heart drug Entresto to the Department of Health and that, two months later, the department referred it back to the HSE.

“Patients are suffering while the HSE and department are playing pass the parcel,” he said.

Cardiologist and physician at South Tipperary General Hospital Dr Niall Colwell said the heart failure drug could help 20,000 people in Ireland.

Dr Colwell, speaking on RTÉ radio, said Entresto would improve patients’ quality of life, reduce their admission to hospital, and possibly reduce mortality.

Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association chief executive Oliver O’Connor, said the IPHA believes the money is available to pay for the new drugs.

He said that, a year ago, IPHA member companies entered an agreement with the Government and had delivered €140m in savings. “We are absolutely convinced that there is money for these nine new medicines,” he said.

Mr O’Connor said the drugs are routinely available across Europe.

“For the nine medicines, it has been two-and-a-half-years, on average, from the time of the first application for reimbursements,” he said.

“It is 520 days since the outcome of the full health technology assessment. This delay is inexcusable and is letting down patients.”

The nine drugs are:

  • Entresto for heart failure.
  • Gazyvaro for follicular lymphoma.
  • Erivedge for basal cell carcinoma.
  • Otezla for psoriasis & psoriatic arthritis.
  • Brintellix for depression
  • Lynparza for ovarian cancer.
  • Entyvio for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
  • Opdivo for renal cell carcinoma.
  • Opdivo for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


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