Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Questions (388)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

388. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health his plans to address costs and commercialisation of medicines as outlined by an organisation (details supplied); if consideration has been given to finding a sustainable solution to these challenges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5304/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Medicines play a vital role in improving the overall health of Irish patients. Securing access to new and innovative medicines in a timely manner is a key objective of the Irish Health Service. Officials in my Department are aware of the document referred to by the Deputy.

The challenge of accessing innovative medicines at affordable prices affects all countries. A constant pipeline of new medicines, whose asking prices are in many cases beyond what health services can afford, mean that the increase in pharmaceutical expenditure that our rapid demographic changes require is unsustainable.

Ireland is already engaging in a number of initiatives in relation to access to medicines through its international agenda, most notably through its membership of the BeNeluxA initiative. The BeNeluxA collaboration seeks to enhance patients' access to high quality and affordable treatments, improve the payers' position in the market through joint negotiations, increase transparency on pricing between the collaborating countries, share policy expertise and focus on knowledge building. BeNeluxA members will work closely together to identify pragmatic solutions to the challenges which we all face with medicine pricing, sustainability and supply.

The four-year Framework Agreement on the Supply and Pricing of Medicines, between the State and the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), was signed in 2016. It is expected to deliver €600 million in savings in its lifetime from IPHA companies and €150 million in savings from non-IPHA companies. The Agreement contains a number of measures intended to increase sustainable drug access and supply, including setting prices relative to those in over half of EU member states, reviewing prices annually against the reference countries to achieve better value for money over a product’s lifetime and formal health technology assessment of new treatments to inform reimbursement decision making.

I believe that partnership with industry is a key aspect of improving access to new medicines. At the last bi-annual meeting between my Department and IPHA, a proposed dialogue was discussed. It is envisioned that this will take the form of a structured platform of engagement, to create better patient access to new treatments. An Open Policy Forum also took place in November 2018 with the Departments of Health, Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform and IPHA.

I look forward to more engagement with stakeholders over the course of the year, with the aim of building a fairer partnership between industry to help ensure that patients get sustainable access to new medicines in as timely a manner as possible.