Support grows for generic drugs


There is growing public awareness and support for the use of cheaper generic drugs in the health system, according to a new survey.

Some 85 per cent of those surveyed said drug prices were too high and virtually all – 98 per cent – supported measures to cut the cost of medicines, according to the cost of medicines index published by Behaviour & Attitudes.

The survey carried out for Teva Pharmaceuticals also revealed high levels of acceptance of generic alternatives with 91 per cent of people agreeing they were as safe and effective as brand name drugs.

Since 2008, the proportion of people reporting that their doctor or pharmacist had discussed prescription options has doubled, to 41 per cent, and proportion of people offered a generic alternative when filling a prescription also increased from 39 per cent to 71 per cent.

Only one-third of respondents said they were aware of Government initiatives to reduce medicine costs, but 95 per cent expressed support for these measures.

Senator John Crown said that while greater use of generics was needed, drug prices were a “softer target” for criticism than other elements of health spending such as money used for ministerial advisers or the provision of Viagra on the medical card schemes.

He said low rates of corporation tax was the sole reason pharmaceutical multinationals were attracted to Ireland and the price charged for their drugs in the local market was insignificant by comparison. Ireland should have a 0 per cent corporation tax rate for companies engaging in R&D, he suggested.

Sandra Gannon, general manager of Teva, said alarmist newspaper headlines about high drug prices didn’t tell the full story.

While the price of generic drugs in the UK was much lower than in Ireland, this was the result of many years of focused effort, she said.

The Government could reduce its annual drugs bill but this would involve a wider programme of reforms rather than relying solely on “blunt” drug price cuts.

“Drug price cuts are not an infinite well. They can only deliver so much. Indeed, much has already been given,” she said. An increase in generic sales would have to accompany price cuts, as well as measures to ensure that patients were using their medication in the most effective and cost-effective manner.

Teva is an Israeli-owned generics manufacturer which employs over 500 people in Co Waterford.

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