At an Oireachtas briefing session today (Wednesday 6th December) TDs and Senators heard of the human impact of delayed access to new, innovative medicines and the consequences for patients of no dedicated funding. The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) presented data describing medicines which were planned for 2024 that may not now progress due to lack of new development funding. These same medicines are already available in many other European countries, including Northern Ireland, highlighting the inadequacies of the current system for Irish patients.
Budget 2024 runs the risk of even longer waiting times for patients by potentially interrupting the flow of new medicines from January next year. While a commitment has been made by the government to find funding through existing spend which will be reinvested in new medicines, Irish patients may not have the time to wait while these savings are found. It is essential that finding these efficiency savings is prioritised in the absence of dedicated funding.
Across all health spending new medicines expenditure is probably the most robustly assessed and budget impact medicines go through a strict evaluation process to determine if they will improve efficiency and standards of care before being made directly available to Irish patients. Acknowledging the importance of imposing a strict funding assessment, the process does however require between 20 and 30 steps before a medicine is approved, taking on average, over 1,000 days from the start of the NCPE assessment to reimbursement.
Speaking at the event, which was hosted by Senator Tim Lombard, was Jim McGrath, Director of Commercial Policy at the IPHA; Roisin Molloy, who is recovered from breast cancer but also a former oncology nurse and current General Manager of Merck Serono; and Dr. Grainne O’Kane, Medical Oncologist at St. James’ Hospital.
Oireachtas members were also presented with the result from a recent Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of IPHA which found that:
When considering specific disease areas:
“The availability of medicines in the provision of healthcare, is a crucial and integral part of ensuring universal health coverage which is essential for a functioning healthcare system. Medicines are key to healthy aging and, given the demographic trends of the Irish population, timely access to medical innovation needs to be a priority.
“However, Irish patients continue to fall behind those in other European countries. As per the IPHA Agreement, Ireland is referenced against 14 basket countries, and we have identified medicines that are currently available in all or in most of these countries but not here for Irish patients. These are medicines which can improve the health outcomes of patients and make a significant difference to their quality of life.
“To align Ireland with peer countries who adopt medicines faster, we need a continuous and a faster flow of new medicines which will raise the standards of care and health outcomes for Irish patients .” said Oliver O’Connor, Chief Executive, IPHA.
Presentation can be viewed here.