The process of getting cheaper pharmaceutical drugs to the market will be stalled as a result of the new deal between the Government and the industry, a group representing manufacturers has said.
The Healthcare Enterprise Alliance (HEA), a group representing manufacturers who were not included in the negotiations, said the agreement blocked competition and prevented new, better value drugs, which are up to 30 per cent cheaper, entering the Irish market.
The organisation, established late last year, includes the company Teva as a member. The company claims to be the largest provider of prescription medicines in Ireland.
The HEA said the inclusion of an “artificial” pricing clause protected more expensive medicines, and blocked drugs known as “biosimilars” from entering the market.
It said the Government's approach contrasted starkly with measures taken elsewhere across Europe, where countries had introduced reforms to speed up the use of better value, biosimilar medicines.
The HEA said the Government’s decision to negotiate with only one group, rather than all manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, was “a regressive move that repeated the mistakes of the past”.
The president of the organisation,
, said the negotiations had been a “missed opportunity”.
“By sticking to a traditional, narrow negotiating model, the Government has weakened its position and failed to build on the reforms of 2013. The logic of negotiating with some, not all, shows a clear lack of understanding of the dynamics involved in healthcare advancements.”
She added: “Competition and innovation are the biggest drivers in delivering better value medicines to patients. We have seen in recent years what can be achieved by bringing a reforming ethos to medicine prescription, dispensation and pricing. This agreement halts that momentum.”
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) expressed "serious concern" at the short notice for the introduction of the new arrangements, which it said would result in a financial hit for pharmacists with existing stocks.
Eoghan Hanly, chairman of the IPU's pharmacy contractors' committee, said: "This is a good deal for patients and a good deal for the State, who will save €785 million over the next four years."
Mr Hanly said the medicines pharmacists stocked on their shelves for patients on behalf of the HSE would now be paid for by the HSE at the new lower rates, despite having been purchased by pharmacists at the higher prices previously agreed between the HSE and the drug firms.
“This is an intolerable situation, which further penalises pharmacists, who have already suffered successive rounds of pay reductions under the Fempi [Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest] legislation.”
Cystic Fibrosis Ireland welcomed the Minister’s commitment that the savings from the deal would provide greater access to new and innovative therapies. It said it hoped this would include life-changing drugs for cystic fibrosis.