My Department and the HSE are engaging in a number of initiatives which will lead to better access to medicines for patients, value for the taxpayer and the cost- effective provision of medicines in Ireland.
A public consultation on a National Biosimilar Medicines Policy was undertaken by my Department in 2017. The responses to that consultation and other possible policy levers are being considered by my Department, with a view to developing a National Biosimilar Medicines Policy statement.. At an operational level, the HSE's Acute Hospitals Drugs Management Programme has a biosimilar strategy in place since 2017, which is making considerable progress using a collaborative approach with hospital pharmacists and clinical teams to bring about changes in prescribing practice. In that respect, hospitals are working towards a targeted minimum prescribing rate for biosimilars of 50%.
The HSE is also working on identifying barriers to the prescribing of biosimilars, with a specific focus on education and support. It is seeking to increase understanding of biosimilars through targeted presentations to clinicians and hospitals.
The objective of these initiatives is a greater uptake in the use of biosimilars and this is evident by hospital dispensing data. For example, the prescribing rate for the biosimilar drug Infliximab has increased from 5% in 2017 to 40% in 2018. I am informed that, since the introduction of the Medicines Management Programme's biosimilar guidelines on 1 June 2019, more than 100 patients have already moved to biosimilar medicines.
My Department proposes to build on these positive developments and to bring forward a policy statement that would support and complement the many initiatives which are already underway.