IPHA Urges Progress On Access To New Medicines On World Cancer Day

Posted on February, 04 - 2020

  • Patients waiting three times longer than in comparable European countries to access new medicines
  • 8 cancer medicines now awaiting reimbursement for more than 926 days
  • Political will can unlock funding and access impasse
  • Every three minutes someone gets a cancer diagnosis and every hour someone dies from the disease

On World Cancer Day, biopharmaceutical innovators have urged politicians to make faster access to innovative new medicines a Programme for Government priority when it is negotiated after the General Election.

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), which represents the originator biopharmaceutical industry, said the political leaders who form a new Government should adopt an explicit policy on how to allocate funding to new medicines, relying on both the State and industry contributions.

Ireland is among the slowest in western Europe to provide new medicines to patients. Patients in Ireland are waiting three times as long to get the same medicines, including cancer drugs, as patients in other comparable European countries.

Updated IPHA analysis has found that 13 medicines, eight of which are for cancer, have been waiting for 926 days and counting to be reimbursed and made available to patients. Even though all the medicines have completed the full pharmacoeconomic process and some have received reimbursement approval, funding has not been made available, preventing access by patients. This compares to an average of 289 days from date of EMA licensing in 10 other European countries in which the medicines are available.

IPHA calls on all parties to pledge to improve patients’ access to new medicines through policy.

Oliver O’Connor, Chief Executive of IPHA, said: “On World Cancer Day, we are urging politicians and policymakers to work with the industry to solve the funding and access problem so that patients and their clinicians can get the same range of new medicines, including cancer drugs, as their peers in other western European countries. The new Programme for Government, whatever parties agree it, should adopt an explicit policy on how to allocate funding to new medicines, relying on both the State and industry contributions.”

According to the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, every three minutes someone gets a cancer diagnosis. Every hour someone dies from the disease. Cancer has overtaken heart disease as the most common cause of death in Ireland. The National Cancer Strategy aims to place Ireland in the top quartile of European countries for cancer survival in the next decade.

That will mean improving access to new medicines, including cancer medicines. Innovation is intensifying. Cell therapies are in development that can treat deadly blood cancers by reinfusing patients with their own engineered immune cells to tackle the illness. At the same time, scientists are making progress on gene therapy to cure genetic diseases. And, after a slow start, cancer immunotherapy is making big gains. 

“But it remains the case that many of the new cancer medicines our industry discovers are beyond the reach of patients here.

We must ensure there is political will behind the effort to correct that anomaly. The mechanism is the new Agreement due for negotiation in the coming weeks - but political parties, in the run-up to polling day this weekend, should understand the urgency to tackle the problem,” said Mr O’Connor.