IPHA urges parties to mandate a New Medicines Policy for the first time

Posted on January, 20 - 2020

As the general election begins its second week, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) has urged all political parties to pledge to improve patients’ access to new medicines as part of their plans for health. 

IPHA represents the international originator biopharmaceutical industry in Ireland. The biopharmaceutical industry is one the county’s most significant investors, creating some 30,000 jobs that are regionally distributed and accounting for about half the country’s exports. 

Ireland remains among the slowest in Western Europe to provide new medicines to patients. In the last Dáil, we saw patients groups regularly having to protest for access to new medicines. Ministers ended up making political decisions on medicines. At the same time, very large savings, price cuts and cash rebates are still being provided by pharmaceutical companies to the HSE.   

Oliver O’Connor, the Chief Executive of IPHA, said the industry is clear that there is a better way possible. 

“First, political parties should pledge to improve patients’ access to new medicines and assure them that protesting for medicines will be a thing of the past.  

“Second, the next Government should adopt an explicit policy on how to allocate funding to new medicines, relying on both the State and industry contributions. 

“As the political parties finalise their policy proposals ahead of the February 8th poll, we would urge them to place improving patients’ access to new medicines at the core of their plans for health,” said Mr O’Connor.

Irish patients are waiting up to three times longer for the same medicines patients in other European countries can get. 

“That means doctors have fewer options for treatments than in other countries. That must affect standards of care in Ireland. It means the latest treatments are often beyond the reach of patients and their doctors. We are convinced this can be fixed. It needs political will to work out a better way with the industry for reimbursing new medicines.  

"Budget 2020 allocated no new funding for new medicines. This will not be sustainable. It will not deliver new medicines on time for patients. The reliance on industry and HSE internal savings alone to fund new medicines will run out of road. The HSE has to take care of a growing and ageing population, absorbing a substantial part of its additional funds.

"The way forward is political backing by parties and the next Government for serious discussion on funding new medicines between central Government, the HSE and the industry,” said Mr O’Connor. “This can be achieved in time for Budget 2021." 

Some of the new medicines waiting to be adopted by the health services are for cancer. 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.

Since 2007, life expectancy in Ireland has risen by 2.5 years, according to the Government. This is, in part, down to better treatments for cancer and heart disease. These gains in life expectancy will slip back if we do not tackle the access to new medicines problem. 

“Without funding, new medicines, some of them already deemed cost-effective through pharmacoeconomic assessments, will remain stuck in the system. There, they will not reach patients and, consequently, medical needs will go unmet. Now is the time to fix this,” said Mr O’Connor.