Budget’s €18m for new medicines falls short of amount needed to optimise patients’ access to innovation
Originator industry acknowledges extraordinary pressures facing the Government but the 2023 allocation is still about half of what is required
The Government’s Budget allocation of €18 million for new medicines falls short of the amount needed to optimise patients’ access to new medicines next year and to help Ireland catch up with peer European countries.
The industry acknowledged the extraordinary pressures faced by the Government when framing the Budget, especially in dealing with a cost-of-living crisis. It acknowledged, too, that though €18 million falls well short of the funding needed, it is still an investment in innovation, building on the €80 million allocated in the past two Budgets.
IPHA member companies expect to launch 30 new medicines next year, potentially treating more than 7,000 patients. These medicines are for a range of serious medical conditions, including ulcerative colitis, heart disease, lung disease and many forms of cancer. The industry has estimated the cost of these new medicines at €35 million – twice as much as what has been allocated by the Government in Budget 2023. IPHA members have implemented a range of price cuts and rebates this year under the new Framework Agreement for the Supply and Pricing of Medicines to contribute to creating headroom to fund new medicines.
The concern now is that the process for reimbursement of new medicines remains too slow because funding is inadequate. The industry wants Ireland to be as fast as peer European countries in adopting new medicines in the health services.
Michael O’Connell, IPHA’s President, said the Budget allocation falls short of the amount needed to optimise patients’ access to new medicines.
“We recognise that the Government faced extraordinary pressures in framing Budget 2023, especially in dealing with a cost-of-living crisis and the consequences of the appalling invasion of Ukraine. But the €18 million allocation is about half of what will be needed next year to give patients access to the broadest range of treatment options.
“Last December, we concluded a new medicines supply Agreement. That Agreement, allied with adequate and sustained funding, can improve Ireland’s capacity to deliver the latest treatments to patients. IPHA members have implemented a lot of price cuts and new rebates under the Agreement already this year.
“In parallel, it is vital that the medicines reimbursement system be improved. It is not designed to bring innovation to patients as fast as possible. We must narrow the gap between the completion of health technology assessments and the availability of new medicines. As an industry, we are not bystanders in solving the problem. We have an obligation to bring forward proposals for a fitter and faster reimbursement system. As we prepare to do that, we want to collaborate with health policymakers on solutions that work for everyone,” said Mr O’Connell.
IPHA’s analysis shows that some medicines are still taking 650 days, on average, from authorisation by the European Medicines Agency to reimbursement for patients. Medicines subject to a full health technology assessment – for example, cell and gene therapies – are taking 900 days. That is much longer than in peer European countries.
Ireland is almost four months slower to reimburse and make new cancer medicines available to patients compared to the average across the European Union’s 27 members, according to the most recent EFPIA Patients WAIT Indicator Survey. The survey, which analysed data for the four years between 2017 and 2020 using centrally authorised medicines, found that, among western European countries, only Portugal was slower than Ireland to make new medicines available to patients. Denmark and Germany were three and four times faster, respectively, than Ireland to make new medicines available to patients.
Oliver O’Connor, IPHA’s CEO, said the latest Budget funding was still investment but the amount is not near enough.
“Ireland has a poor record on speed of access to new medicines. Adequate funding and reimbursement system reforms can improve the environment. While we have been making progress on funding, today’s announcement falls well short of expectations. The new medicines supply Agreement was a step on the road to an access environment that can be competitive with peer countries in Europe.
“There is a need for both industry and policymakers to work together on better ways to reimburse new medicines. Clearly, we need to make adequate financial provision for adopting innovation through joint horizon scanning. We hope the reimbursement process proposals we bring forward can begin substantive dialogue that will yield meaningful solutions for patients. As our substantial rebate shows, we are already contributing significantly to the affordability of innovation. That is not reflected in today’s Budget funding announcement,” said Mr O’Connor.
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