INVARIABLY, those unlucky enough to become ill while holidaying in sunnier climes testify that the cost of medicine is far lower elsewhere than in Ireland. There can be no doubt, for instance, that large savings are to be made by buying remedies in Lanzarote or simply by crossing the border and buying them in Northern Ireland.
In a bid to lower the price of generic drugs, legislation introduced three years ago has been surprisingly successful, saving money for patients and the State. However, the cost of new, patented and branded drugs in this country remains unacceptably high. The State spends a whopping €1.3 billion a year on medicines even though it saved around €400 million during the three-year deal which comes to an end this month.
With millions of euro at stake for the Exchequer and company profits potentially diminished , these negotiations will be extremely tough. Rightly criticised for charging exorbitantly for hi-tech drugs, the industry will promise an affordable system to give Irish patients early access to new drugs. About time too. Negotiators for the public should not be duped by veiled threats of pharmaceutical companies pulling out of Ireland if prices are cut. That amounts to a cynical blackmail of the worst kind and reflects badly on the motives of a highly lucrative industry which has made huge profits by compelling sick Irish patients to pay through the nose for the life-changing and life-saving medicines .
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