Big Pharma scathing on failure to endorse new cancer medicines

Cancer strategy targets ‘to be missed’ if new generation drugs not backed by Government

The Health Service Executive says it has approved six cancer therapies this year and 24 since the start of 2016.

The Health Service Executive says it has approved six cancer therapies this year and 24 since the start of 2016.

 

The Government cannot achieve targets set in its cancer strategy if it continues to block approval for a host of new generation drugs, the pharmaceutical industry has warned.

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, which represents the big, research-driven drug companies, says Irish patients are among the last in western Europe to have access to vital cancer medicines.

The claim comes as the group publishes its second quarterly bulletin of drugs that have been waiting for more than two years for approval on reimbursement, allowing them to be used in the Republic.

Seven of the drugs on the list are cancer therapies – four for lung cancer, one for breast cancer and the other two designed to treat multiple myeloma. Two of the other drugs listed are cholesterol therapies. The final one is Spinraza, a Biogen drug for the rare genetic disease, spinal muscular atrophy.

Just one drug from the industry body’s first bulletin, published in April, has since been approved. That is Pfizer’s late-stage breast cancer drug Ibrance, which was sanctioned in June.

Two drugs have been added to the list in the past three months. Both are cancer medicines – one for non small-cell lung cancer and the other for multiple myeloma.

Aside from Biogen, the companies affected include Sanofi, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Amgen and Roche. It is unclear whether Pfizer is affected by either of the new additions to the list.

“The persistent logjam in approving cancer medicines will make it hard for Ireland to hit its target [to be in the top quartile for cancer survival in Europe within the next decade], especially when we know that about 73 per cent of survival gains for cancer are attributable to new treatments,” said association chief executive Oliver O’Connor.

The HSE says it has approved six cancer therapies this year and 24 since the start of 2016.