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The reductions, which will result in additional savings to the State of an estimated €15 million are in accordance with Clause 5.2 of the 2016 Framework Agreement on the Supply and Pricing of Medicines between IPHA, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Expenditure and reform and the HSE.
IPHA CEO Mr Oliver O’Connor said: “IPHA member companies continue to deliver savings. The purpose of the Agreement was to create budget headroom for new medicines. We have played our part. Despite this, the HSE now has no budget available for new medicines. This is unacceptable. Despite very large savings to the State, medicines that are routinely available in other EU member states are not available to patients in Ireland.”
A central element of the Framework Agreement IPHA negotiated with the State a year ago was an annual realignment of prices to the average of 14 European reference countries. On 1 July, this takes place with approximately €15 million in savings to the State for the next year. These savings will be in addition to approximately €140 million already made under the Agreement in its first 12 months, which includes over €15m from the first savings on biologic medicine.
The HSE budget for the Primary Care Reimbursement Service was set this year with minimal growth of €5 million on a €2.556 billion base – 0.2 per cent. The HSE is now routinely sending medicines it has agreed and wants to fund for patients to the Department of Health for approval because there is now no more budget available for new medicines, stated the IPHA, describing this as “entirely unacceptable”.
The reimbursement process is also much slower in Ireland compared to other European countries, according to Mr O’Connor.
“Other European countries have systems in place which enable new medicines to become available to patients within six months. The process in Ireland is clogged up, pushing us behind our European counterparts. A European survey of medicines over 2012-15 has showed Ireland as 16th out of 26 countries in terms of the number of newly-authorised medicines being made available to patients. This situation is most likely worse in 2017.
“Now there are 10 critical new medicines currently badly delayed for patients who need them– but they are reimbursed in the health services in nearly all our 14 reference countries already. Some are already available in 18 or more countries. Despite the fact that the Agreement states that it ‘will ensure that Ireland remains at the forefront of its European peers in terms of early access,’ our approval process is simply not working well. It now takes an average of 348 days post authorisation for medicines to be reimbursed for patients and sometimes it can take several years. Other countries manage their approval process and budget to get medicines to patients much faster. Ireland should be able to achieve this too for patients. ”
He added: “IPHA member companies are delivering on their side of the Agreement and providing savings which will total €785 million by 2020. It is not pricing or expenditure that prevents Ireland from being among the top European countries in providing new medicines to patients, it is the slow process and inadequate budgeting. This must be addressed now or Ireland will continue to fall behind in providing new medicines to patients.”