Drug companies angry at allegation of ‘predatory pricing’

Row between industry and body that advises the HSE over access to market for new medicines

Pharmaceutical companies have rejected allegations that they are pursuing “predatory pricing” for new medicines. Photograph:  Getty Images

Pharmaceutical companies have rejected allegations that they are pursuing “predatory pricing” for new medicines. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Pharmaceutical companies have rejected allegations that they are pursuing “predatory pricing” for new medicines.

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (Ipha), which represents generally big pharma companies that research and develop new drugs, said the comment “amounts to a charge of illegality against the industry”.

The group was reacting to a statement by Prof Michael Barry, clinical director of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE), the body that advises the Health Service Executive on the cost-effectiveness of medicines, in a radio interview on Monday.

Prof Barry had said over the weekend that, just eight weeks into the new year, the State had “almost exhausted” the available funding for new drugs for the whole of 2019.

Speaking about the decision not to reimburse Spinraza, the only therapy available for an often fatal muscle-wasting condition that mostly affects young children, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), he said his agency was seeing a “conveyor belt of very high-cost drugs”.

Unrealistic

“We are seeing unrealistic predatory pricing and we have seen it for some time,” Prof Barry said, adding that drug companies were offering discounts of up to 40 and even 60 per cent in negotiations to bring their drugs to market.

Oliver O’Connor, chief executive of Ipha, said the allegation of predatory pricing was “irresponsible”.

“It is not acceptable for the NCPE, a State agency, to level an accusation of that import against our industry, especially when it is without foundation,” he said.

“Ireland has a serious and sustained problem with access to new medicines,” Mr O’Connor said. “Patients here are among the last in western Europe to get the benefits of innovative treatments. The delay is not due to the price of medicines in Ireland. All countries in western Europe assess, negotiate and agree prices similar to what is offered here.”