State releases €30m to supply new medicines

Deal with pharma sector comes as talks on new drug pricing deal deferred until May

Ipha says the 15 medicines that have been  made available are aimed at treating  a range of conditions including lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, urethral carcinoma, leukaemia, Parkinson’s disease and chronic migraine.

Ipha says the 15 medicines that have been made available are aimed at treating a range of conditions including lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, urethral carcinoma, leukaemia, Parkinson’s disease and chronic migraine.

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New drugs for patients with cancer, Parkinson’s disease and chronic migraine, which had been held up due to funding constraints, are to be made available on foot of a new agreement between the Government and the pharmaceutical industry.

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (Ipha) said patients would now get access to more of the latest treatment options following the release of an estimated €30 million aimed at clearing a backlog of new medicines.

Ipha, which represents the international originator biopharmaceutical industry here, said an existing four-year supply agreement with the State would also now be extended until the summer.

The association said that since July 2019, approvals for new medicines, deemed by the HSE to be clinically sound and economically cost-effective, had slowed significantly due to a lack of funding.

“That caused a build-up, or ‘backlog’, of over 20 approved but unfunded medicines. The result was that more than 11,000 patients experienced delays accessing vital treatments,” it said.

In the last budget, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly secured €50 million to pay for the introduction of new drugs and medicines this year. The release of the new drugs will represent the first impact of this additional funding.

Ipha said the 15 medicines that had been “backlogged” but which would now be made available were aimed at treating patients with a range of conditions including lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, urethral carcinoma, leukaemia, Parkinson’s disease and chronic migraine.

It said a number had already been approved by the HSE’s executive management team and the health authority was planning to roll them out.

Formal negotiations

Ipha said the extended supply agreement would run until the end of July, with a review by the end of April. Formal negotiations on a new supply agreement, which had been due to take place in November, would begin in May and, if more time was needed, the current interim arrangements could be extended until September.

Ipha said its member companies would continue to pay the HSE a rebate of 5.5 per cent on medicines for supply to community and hospital services.

Ipha said it was “committed to continuing to work with the State on improving the reimbursement process so that delays in making medicines available to patients are avoided”.

It said it had drawn attention to the “innovation paradox” – the anomaly that Ireland had a major biopharmaceutical manufacturing presence but a slow pace of adoption of new medicines in the health services.

Ipha president Paul Reid said: “We have agreed to roll over the extension to the existing agreement for three reasons. We wanted to give thousands of patients access to the latest treatments by attaching a specific funding amount to medicines we know they need. We wanted to help the State to manage the pandemic by giving them time and space, without the burden of negotiating a new agreement right now with the industry. We wanted to secure the supply of medicines to the health services, especially during Covid, through the governance framework the extension provides.”

Ipha chief executive Oliver O’Connor said the extension of the agreement represented “a bridge towards negotiating a new agreement that placed the supply and funding of new medicines on a sustainable, predictable footing”.