My Department and the HSE have implemented a medicines pricing policy which aims to reduce the prices for medicines/improve value for money whilst also maintaining continuity of supply and availability of essential medicines. These aims are balanced in an attempt to maximise public health gain from available resources. As part of the pricing policies there has been a price freeze (i.e. no price increases allowed except in exceptional circumstances) for a number of years.
Over the last few years thousands of price reductions on medicines have occurred. For example, the price of over 500 different presentations of various medicines will reduce by between 5% and 29% on the 1st November 2013 as a consequence of agreements reached with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland (APMI).
Occasionally, price increases are required to maintain supplies of specific essential medicines. However, the HSE each year refuses a significant number of requests for price increases. Less than 50 price increases were allowed in the 8 years between 2006 and 2013.
In October 2012, the manufacturer of Purinethol informed the HSE that, following an examination of the viability of a number of product lines, it had decided to increase the price of Purinethol in Ireland and a number of other EU countries (including Germany, UK, Denmark and Finland).
The HSE engaged with the manufacturer in an attempt to negotiate a reduced price, however, the manufacturer was unwilling to do so.
As the manufacturer is the sole supplier of the product in Ireland, the HSE accepted the price increase in order to safeguard the supply of this essential medicine. The HSE granted the price increase with effect from 1 March 2013. Despite this increase, there is still only one supplier of the drug in the Irish market, which suggests that the HSE made the right decision in allowing the price increase in order to maintain supply.
It is important to note that the Irish price for Purinethol is not out of line with international prices.