Epilepsy group warns on new drugs
A failure to exclude epilepsy patients from new legislation designed to bring down the cost of drugs in Ireland could put lives at risk, it has been claimed.
Brainwave – the Irish Epilepsy Association urged 40 Oireachtas members at a briefing in Leinster House last week to exclude epilepsy from the Health (Pricing Supply of Medical Goods Bill) 2012 which is due to be enacted before the end of the year.
The Bill allows for the substitution of patent drugs with their generic equivalent as part of efforts to bring down the State’s €1.8 billion drugs bill. Brainwave has said substituting patent drugs for generic drugs could have “catastrophic consequences” for many of the 37,000 people in Ireland who have epilepsy.
Consultant neurologist Prof Norman Delanty said the active ingredients in generic drugs were the same as in the patent drugs but the way they were absorbed in the body could differ.
“If you look at a tablet on the counter top, the other substances such as binders and other agents which expands the volume of the tablet, there are things that make it taste better, there are things that put the colour on it. The way the tablet is manufactured can cause variability in how a drug is absorbed through the small intestine.
“If you are on a drug for high pressure or high cholesterol you can work around those adjustments. If you have epilepsy you can have a seizure and that it is a disaster,” he said.
“That for individual patients can cause breakthrough seizure and a seizure can be catastrophic for an individual on a number of levels including danger in terms of injury, prolonged seizures, risk of death and loss of driving privileges.”
He said the differences in prices between generic and patent drugs for epilepsy patients was small and it was a false economy because the State would lose out with more hospitalisations.