The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), the main lobby group for drug companies, insists it "stands over" its claim that 500 jobs were lost in the sector in Ireland because of Government policies aimed at reducing the State's medicines bill.
The Department of Enterprise says there is "no evidence" for the claim, which was made by the IPHA in a letter to the Government obtained by RTÉ's This Week programme.
“Despite the well-publicised difficulties in the life sciences sector in recent years, with the patent cliff and global consolidation, more than 5,000 extra jobs have been created in multinationals [in] this area,” the department said.
Philip Hannon, the public affairs manager of IPHA, told the Irish Times that its biggest members told it that jobs were lost in the commercial side of the industry after the Government implemented a number of policies, including an industry pricing agreement, to reduce the national drugs bill.
“These were not manufacturing jobs. These were jobs such as sales representatives. We canvassed the top 10 companies in the sector with a survey and we based the number on those findings,” said Mr Hannon.
He said since the State started paying less for medicines there were “fewer sales reps on the roads” in Ireland and a “lot of the coverage reverted to England”.
The Government, which shaved at least €400 million off the price it pays for drugs with the last industry pricing agreement, is preparing to enter talks with the industry once again. The current agreement expires in November.
Mr Hannon said talks would begin “soon” aimed at securing a new deal. “We are seeking a realistic working agreement, one that gives a fair price for both the State and the industry.”
RTÉ outlined yesterday a series of letters written by pharma lobbyists to various Government departments complaining about pricing policy.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was heavily lobbied by the drugs industry, and Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton received representations, including from Ibec's pharmaceuticals division.