Health Briefing


A round-up of today's other stories in brief

HSE to fund blood-thinning drug for certain patients

Pradaxa, a prescription blood thinner, is claimed to be safer and more effective than the widely used warfarin for many patients with atrial fibrillation, a condition that affects some 57,000 people in Ireland.

One clinical trial showed it reduced the risk of stroke 35 per cent more than warfarin.

While some Irish clinicians switched their atrial fibrillation patients to Pradaxa when it was approved by the Irish Medicines Board last year, the HSE said that while those switched before November 9th would be reimbursed under the GMS scheme to remain on it, future patients would not.

Last week, however, the HSE said while warfarin remained the default treatment, it would now reimburse Pradaxa for patients with poor coagulation control, those whose other medicines interact poorly with warfarin and those allergic to it.

The HSE said physicians would have to justify prescribing Pradaxa, which has a wholesale cost of €2.35 per patient per day, before it will be reimbursed.

Separately, the chief executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland, Philip Watt, has called on the HSE to expedite its approval of the cystic fibrosis drug, Kalydeco, also known as Ivacaftor.

The oral drug, the first to treat the underlying causes of a particular form of CF, has recently been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Surgeon pays tribute to transplant athletes

TRANSPLANT SURGEON and thrice All-Ireland football title winner in the 1970s, Dr David Hickey, above, paid tribute to 26 athletes who will represent Ireland at the 7th European Transplant and Dialysis Games next month. Dr Hickey gave a motivational speech to the Irish team at Alsaa sports complex at Dublin Airport on Sunday. His audience included athletes whose life-saving transplant operations were successfully performed by him. The European Transplant and Dialysis Games will be held in Zagreb, Croatia on August 18th-25th.

Disability services group reports €729,000 loss

A CORK-BASED foundation that provides a range of services to 2,000 clients with intellectual disabilities went into the red by more than €720,000 last year.

The Cope Foundation sustained the deficit after the Health Service Executive (HSE) cut its grant from €45.9 million to €44.8 million last year. The loss last year of €729,086 compares with a surplus of €52,672 in 2010.

Spokesman for the foundation, John Clifford, said yesterday: “We are aiming to break even this year. It has been a very, very challenging year. We are doing our very, very best with less money.”

The foundation provides its services to its clients free and the foundation’s total spend last year amounted to €62 million compared with €63.9 million in 2010.

The foundation operates out of 65 locations in Cork city and county and the numbers employed by the foundation last year fell from 838 to 829.

A breakdown of the numbers employed show that the foundation employs 243 nurses; 79 in general support services; 78 in nursing and social care; 40 in management and administration; 387 in other patient and client care; with two in medical/dental.

The foundation’s staff costs last year came to €41.4 million with client allowances totalling €7.7 million. The loss last year takes account of non-cash depreciation costs of €2.4 million.

The figures show that the Cope Foundation received €42.78 million from the HSE South last year compared with €44.2 million in 2010, while funding from other HSE regions last year totalled €2 million compared with €1.74 million in 2010.