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HSE expenditure on High-Tech Drugs Scheme continues to rise

News of the increase comes as the HSE implements a new electronic ordering and management system in a bid to provide greater transparency of spending on high-tech medicines.

The HSE spent €606 million on the Scheme in 2016 compared to €662 million last year, data released to this newspaper under Freedom of Information legislation reveals.

The increase means that spending on the Scheme has more than doubled in the last eight years, rising by €337 million since 2009.

Payments under the Scheme are made up of payments to community pharmacies (a monthly patient care fee for overseeing the treatment) and payments to pharmaceutical suppliers.

The patient care fees in 2017 amounted to €20.9 million, compared to €19.5 million in 2016, according to HSE data.

The total value of stock on hand in pharmacies for the High-Tech Drugs Scheme increased by over €2 million, from €53 million in 2016 to €55.7 million in 2017.

Amid HSE attempts to reduce the value of high-tech medicine stock that does not have an active patient, data show that spending fell marginally, from €12.88 million in 2016 to €12.87 million last year.

Meanwhile, the value of out-of-date high-tech medicine stock held by pharmacies decreased slightly last year, falling from €2.7 million in 2016 to €2.6 million in 2017.

A breakdown of out-of-date stock on hand in pharmacies, according to 32 local health office (LHO) areas, shows that North Dublin (€165,000), Donegal (€150,000) and Dublin South East (€138,000) were the areas with the highest values of out-of-date stock in 2017.

Examples of the types of medicines available under the Scheme include anti-rejection drugs for transplant patients and chemotherapy drugs.

The huge jump in spending was raised in a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General in 2014 and concerns have led the HSE to establish an electronic ordering and management system.

The HSE, in collaboration with the Irish Pharmacy Union, has developed a High-Tech Hub Ordering and Management System to streamline administration of the Scheme for pharmacists and to provide enhanced visibility of stock management and spending on the Scheme to the HSE. The phased implementation of the High-Tech Hub began in December 2017.

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