James Reilly, the health minister, has come under further criticism — this time for his failure to tackle the State’s €1bn drugs bill.
It emerged yesterday that the State is paying 12 times more than Britain’s NHS for some non-branded med-icines because of a pricing contract reached with manufacturers two years ago.
A spokesperson for Mr Reilly said talks on a new deal will start soon and legislation forcing pharmacists to prescribe genetic instead of branded drugs will be before the Dáil in the autumn.
“The era of high-price generic drugs in Ireland — which has been a feature for years under previous administrations — must and will come to an end,” the spokesperson said.
Fianna Fáil said Mr Reilly should have acted sooner and is “unable to take responsibility for what is happening in the health service”.
The party’s spokesman on health, Billy Kelleher, said Mr Reilly had promised “huge savings” through greater use of cheaper generic drugs and this was a “key area” where the coalition had promised reform.
“However, it took Minister Reilly almost eight months to bring forward legislation to enable generic drug pricing and reference pricing,” he said.
Mr Reilly is under pressure to tackle a €280m deficit in health spending, and has estimated that €50m could be saved by switching from branded to non-branded medicines.
Mr Kelleher said Mr Reilly appears to be blaming the previous administration and admitting that savings will not be made this year.
“The minister now appears to be of the view that these savings cannot be delivered because of decisions made in 2010,” he said.
“If that is the case then it must also have been the case when the health estimates were brought before the Dáil in Dec 2011 — further proof that the Government misled the Dáil with fraudulent figures and cannot defend its own failings in this area.”
It was reported that under the 2010 deal generic manufacturers are authorised to charge the State up to 98% of the price of original branded medicine.
This means, for example, the HSE pays €37 for a generic version of the blood-thinning medicine Plavix compared to €3 paid by the NHS for the same pack of 28 tablets.
The HSE pays €17.90 for the generic version of depression drug Cipramil compared to the NHS paying €1.65 for a pack.
The HSE is paying €24 for the generic version of the cholesterol drug Lipitor — a minor saving on the €25.50 paid for the branded version.
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