I propose to take Questions Nos. 1280 and 1296 together.
The challenge of securing affordable access to innovate medicines is not unique to Ireland. Over the past two years, I and officials have been engaging with a number of voluntary EU forums in an effort to identifying solutions to issues of medicine pricing, sustainability and supply.
In June 2018, I signed the Beneluxa Initiative on Pharmaceutical Policy to work with Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. This Agreement is in line with my objective to work with other European countries to identify workable solutions, in an increasingly challenging environment, to secure timely access for patients to new medicines in an affordable and sustainable way.
The Beneluxa Initiative is a voluntary collaboration between nation states and allows for whatever level of participation that is deemed appropriate by each member state. The Initiative has accord to domestic legal frameworks on drug pricing and crucially respects the fact that pricing and reimbursement decisions remain a national competency.
This Initiative is well established, with clear goals and a pragmatic approach to delivering on its objectives. Four areas of collaboration has been identified: horizon scanning, health technology assessment, information sharing and policy exchange and joint price negotiations.
Members of the Beneluxa Initiative are working closely across the four domains to create opportunities to create greater access to new medicines. In this context, a project is on-going on the development of an International Horizon Scanning Initiative (IHSI), which seeks to build a permanent horizon scanning system that can support countries and institutions in policy planning and their decision making regarding the reimbursement of new pharmaceuticals. In addition, the Beneluxa partners conduct joint health technology assessments and share data and policies.
The Beneluxa Initiative on Pharmaceutical Policy will have an important role to play in securing faster access to innovative medicines and provide important platforms in which to strengthen the policy mix and deliver on the shared objective of securing access to high cost, innovative treatments at affordable prices. The patients is at the centre of this collaborative international approach.