APMI chairman, Rory O’Riordan, said there was a wide range of “branded generic” drugs available costing around 25% less than “branded originals” that could be prescribed within the State’s community drug schemes without any deterioration in patient care. He said that statin drugs used to reduce cholesterol now cost the Government over 130 million per annum.
“We have calculated that if the prescription of branded generics in this class was increased by 40%, it could save as much as E15 million,” said Mr O’Riordan.
The APMI pointed out that the cost to the State of the drug reimbursement schemes, including the General Medical Service (GMS) and Drug Payment Scheme (DPS) will run over 1 billion this year and is growing by about 15% per year.
Branded generics, however, account for less than 5% of medicines on the DPS scheme and around 8% on the GMS schemes.
Mr O’Riordan explained that branded generic drugs are medicines whose original patent has expired, thereby allowing other pharmaceutical companies to manufacture an identical product.
The APMI, which represents more than 2,000 employees, will be one of the three parties involved in upcoming negotiations on the renewal of the Reimbursement Agreement between the Government and the pharmaceutical industry.
The agreement that will run for five years covers all medicines that can be prescribed in the State’s community schemes and all medicines supplied to hospitals.
The APMI believes that the Government should agree to pay a “standard price” to pharmaceutical companies for the drug, rather than several different prices.
Under the present system, the Government pays a higher price for the “original” drug and a lower price for the identical “branded generic” version.
The APMI also wants more incentives for GPs to use the lower cost medicines when available.
But the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) warned the introduction of a reference pricing system could remove or lessen doctors’ freedom to exercise their clinical judgment.
This would be a regressive step and could lead to a two-tier-system, with those who could afford getting the medicine of the doctor’s choice doing so, whereas poorer patients might not.
Generic drugs the price gap
THE difference between patent and non-patent drugs:
Pravastatin (cholesterol reducer). Price difference of up to 8.56 (20mg x 28).
Omeprazole (treatment of ulcers and acid reflux). Price difference of up to 11.63 (20mg x 28).
Fluoxetine (antidepressant). Price difference of up to 6.11 (20mg x 30).