New Europe-wide Data Shows New Medicines Face Growing Delays Reaching Irish Patients

Posted on April, 08 - 2019

New data shows Irish patients face growing delays accessing new medicines, ranking well into the bottom half of European countries surveyed as part of a comprehensive analysis of wait times and rates of availability.

The data, gathered by IQVIA for the EFPIA Patient WAIT Indicator Survey and released by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), shows Ireland is 20th out of 27 European countries for speed of access to new medicines. Patients in Ireland wait, on average, 486 days for some medicines. Germany was the fastest country, with medicines licensed by the European Medicines Agency taking 119 days to get to patients there. The average wait time across the 27 countries was 413 days. 

The wait time for Irish patients has deteriorated since last year when the figure was 408 days. By contrast, Denmark, with a population size similar to our own, has a wait time of 146 days. Last year, their figure was 155 days.

When it comes to the availability of new medicines, Ireland continues to be in a poor position, ranking 16th out of the 27 countries. Just 42% of the new medicines licensed for prescription to patients by the European Medicines Agency in 2015, 2016 and 2017 were available and reimbursed in the health services here at the end of 2018.

The data, released to coincide with World Health Day, shows that just 29% of new orphan medicines licensed in 2015-17 were accessible to patients here at the end of 2018. Rare diseases affect about 300,000 people in Ireland during their lifetime. They affect fewer than one in 2,000 people, and between 7,000 and 8,000 conditions are counted as rare diseases.

The EFPIA Patient WAIT Indicator Survey shows patients’ access to new medicines is highly varied across Europe, with the greatest rate of availability in Northern and Western European countries and lowest in Southern and Eastern European countries.

Oliver O’Connor, Chief Executive of IPHA, said the new data is part of a growing trend of evidence showing that Ireland has a severe problem accessing new medicines.

“We rightly aspire to be among the best in Europe. For example, Government policy is to achieve cancer survival rates among the top seven countries in Europe. Our speed of access to medicines needs to be the same to deliver that. Ireland actually has income per capita comparable with, or even higher than, countries like Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Spain. Yet, we lag these and many other countries in speed of access to new medicines. Marking World Health Day yesterday, we are urging the Government to set a simple policy goal: to place Ireland in the top seven of European countries for speed of access to new medicines. We must agree a destination and, then work out, together, how we get there,” said Mr O’Connor.

IPHA has argued that reimbursement must be seen in the context of Ireland’s global bio-innovation proposition.

Bernard Mallee, Director of Communications and Advocacy at IPHA, said: “Reputationally, socially and economically, it is vital that we get this right. Ireland should be seen globally as a centre for biopharmaceutical research and development, offering excellent standards of care through the timely delivery of innovative medicines.”

Life expectancy for a child born in Ireland today is 80.6 years. A child born in 1925 could expect to live until they were 57.65 years. In less than a century, life expectancy has risen by 23 years. That is down, in part, to major steps forward in biopharmaceutical research, and advances in prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment. We have better perinatal care now, too, and infant mortality rates have dropped. Antibiotics have helped to control infectious diseases. 

The EFPIA Patient WAIT Indicator Survey examined 121 products authorised by the European Medicines Agency between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2017. The survey provides an analysis of products authorised in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The cut-off point for the rate of availability was December 2018. IQVIA gathered the data across 27 countries, including Ireland.

These slides from the latest EFPIA Patient WAIT Indicator Survey showing the rate of availability and speed of access for new medicines across the 27 countries surveyed by IQVIA.