Department of Health reaches deal on new drugs


NEW DRUGS for the treatment of conditions including multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder and hepatitis C are to be made available following an agreement between the Department of Health and the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association.

The department announced last night it had reached a deal with the association to deliver savings worth €20 million a year.

The savings will allow the Health Service Executive to approve the release of new, more expensive drugs.

Drugs to be released will include Brilique, to prevent thrombosis in patients with acute coronary syndromes; Gilenya, for multiple sclerosis; Sycrest, for bipolar disorder; and Incivo and Victrelis, both for hepatitis C.

Pradaxa, for the prevention of stroke, which had been released for a short period and then withdrawn, is also to be made available. An alternative to blood thinner Warfarin, the drug is believed to be safer and more effective for patients with atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat.

The National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics had approved most of the drugs as cost-effective, and under a former agreement between the HSE and the pharmaceutical association the new medicines were to be made available within 40 days of an approval decision.

But when that agreement ran out in March this year the release of new drugs was stalled.

The department said the drugs were not released because of lack of funds to pay for them.

Under the interim agreement announced yesterday, the drugs that have already gone through the full evaluation process, including economic and clinical assessment, and have been approved, will be released.

The funds to pay for them will be sourced from savings suggested by the association.

Under the previous agreement, when a generic equivalent of an off-patent medicine came on to the market the price of the original product was reduced by 20 per cent immediately and by a further 15 per cent after 22 months.

Under the new interim agreement, when a generic drug comes to market the price of the original product will be reduced immediately by 30 per cent. Older drugs with generic equivalents already available will be reduced in price by 10 per cent.

Some €10 million is expected to be saved under the measures for the remainder of this year and up to €20 million will be saved in a full year.

The deal was accepted by Minister for Health James Reilly in advance of further discussions, a department spokeswoman said.

The negotiations on a final agreement are “expected to deliver more significant savings to the Irish patient and taxpayer”, she said.

In a statement last night the association president, David Gallagher, welcomed the Minister’s acceptance of their proposal. He said the interim agreement would ensure full negotiations on a new agreement could commence.

Mr Gallagher said it was a good day for Irish patients “who will now have broad universal access to new, innovative therapies restored”.

“A key strength of the Irish healthcare system over many decades has been early access to the full range of modern, therapeutically advanced medicines to all patients, regardless of income,” he said. “We are delighted to have been able to work with the Department of Health to ensure that this access can be restored.”