Decision to lift funding embargo for latest therapies will help thousands of patients with serious diseases
The Budget announcement today [Tuesday] by the Government of €50 million for new medicines next year is a game-changer for patients with serious medical conditions, according to the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) which represents the originator biopharmaceutical industry.
The funding means doctors treating tens of thousands of patients for serious diseases such as breast, prostate and lung cancer, chronic leukaemia, Parkinson’s, melanoma and severe skin diseases will have over 50 new medicines available to them – some already approved by the Health Service Executive and many more in the pipeline for 2021.
The funding means doctors treating tens of thousands of patients for serious diseases such as breast, prostate and lung cancer, chronic leukaemia, Parkinson’s, melanoma and severe skin diseases will have more treatment options, with over 50 new medicines ready to be launched in 2021. Many of these have already been recommended for reimbursement by the Health Service Executive’s Drugs Group, with a further growing pipeline of innovative treatments going through formal assessment.
The move should should now catalyse “close collaboration” between the State and the industry on a new multi-year supply Agreement that works for patients, industry and the State.
“The €50 million in funding that the Budget sets aside for new medicines next year is a game-changer for Irish patients,” said Paul Reid, President of IPHA. “It means patients will have a greater range of breakthrough treatment options available to them for serious medical conditions and faster. The move is a clear statement that the current Government values medicines innovation – its potential transformational impact on improved healthcare outcomes and the role it plays in driving economic growth and jobs across the regions.”
Since last July, there has effectively been a funding embargo on new medicines. Today’s decision lifts that embargo and explicitly allocates funding that will cover a significant proportion of the cost of new treatments next year.
IPHA paid tribute to the Government for the move, especially the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD; the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar TD; Health Minister Stephen Donnelly TD; Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Michael McGrath TD; and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe TD.
“The decision is a major step forward in the effort to right what we have called the ‘innovation paradox’ – that Ireland is excellent at making new medicines but in recent years poor at making them available quickly to patients,” said Oliver O’Connor, IPHA’s Chief Executive. “We have been among the last in western Europe to make new medicines available to patients. This Budget is the catalyst to change that. By announcing significant funding today, the Government has signalled that it values the role of medicines innovation in delivering on the goals of Sláintecare. The Government has listened to patient organisations, clinicians, the HSE and industry who were at one on the importance of new medicines.”
IPHA has argued that medicines should be treated as an investment rather than as a cost, with knock-on benefits for the economy and the public finances by increasing workforce participation, productivity and reducing hospitalisations. For cancer patients, the availability of new medicines can help place Ireland in the top quartile of European countries for cancer survival by 2026 – a goal of the National Cancer Strategy.
In July, IPHA negotiated an extension to the current supply Agreement with the State. The extension runs out in January. Negotiations on a successor Agreement are due to start next month. IPHA believes that new medicines should be funded by a combination of State and industry resources over a multi-year horizon.
“Joint funding is our proposal. The State and the industry should come together to fund new medicines over a multi-year horizon. We are gradually clearing the backlog of new, approved but unfunded medicines this year. So far, that is happening largely through industry-generated savings. Now, there is a significant funding allocation set aside for new medicines in the pipeline for next year. This is real progress. It should encourage industry and State actors to push on and finalise a new Agreement that places on a sustainable, predictable footing the funding of new medicines for patients,” said Mr O’Connor.