Cystic fibrosis drug at centre of HSE row behind sales surge at drugmaker

Revenues at Vertex Pharmaceutical rose to $1.55bn last year, driven mainly by Kaftrio sales

The cystic fibrosis drug Kaftrio – the subject of a stand-off between the HSE and Vertex Pharmaceutical – was the main driver behind the drugmaker’s revenues surging to $1.55 billion (€1.6 billion) last year.

New accounts show that sales at the Dublin-registered Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Ireland) Ltd last year increased by 90 per cent or $734.76 million, from $818.7 million to $1.55 billion.

The Irish company fulfils all EU sales, including sales of a suite of cystic fibrosis drugs that includes Kalydeco and Orkambi.

However, the directors said the increase in revenues and profits “was mainly driven by an increase in Kaftrio sales to Vertex-affiliated companies in the EU”.


The surge in revenues contributed to pretax profits increasing by 64 per cent, rising from $6.29 million to $10.36 million.

Cystic fibrosis is the most common life-threatening inherited disease in Ireland.

Philip Watt, chief executive of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, said on Wednesday that the non-availability of Kaftrio to 35 children aged between six and 11 here “remains the subject of a Mexican stand-off between the HSE and Vertex”.

Mr Watt described the situation as “completely unacceptable” and repeated his call for an arbitrator to resolve the dispute.

Globally last year, Vertex’s sales from Kaftrio and its US brand version totalled $5.69 billion.

Mr Watt said: “Across Europe, there are 11 countries in the EU that have full access to Kaftrio for six to 11 year olds. There is also full access in Northern Ireland and the UK.”

He said 140 children in the State did have access to the life-changing treatment here, but for the 35 to be excluded, “it is devastatingly cruel to be told you are not getting it because there is a row going on”.

“This drug has revolutionised CF care... and so for every week and every month that this row is not resolved, there is damage being done to children’s bodies.”

Earlier this month, Vertex stated that it was committed to seeking a rapid resolution for the 35 children and was keen to “accelerate” discussions on the issue with the HSE.

Shareholder funds at Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Ireland) Ltd at the end of last year totalled $405.8 million.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times