Irish drug prices ‘near European average’, Oireachtas told

Pharmaceutical industry rejects charges of high costs for prescription medicines

Pharmaceutical industry representatives have rejected claims that Irish drug prices are high compared to other European countries

Pharmaceutical industry representatives have rejected claims that Irish drug prices are high compared to other European countries

 

Pharmaceutical industry representatives have rejected claims that Irish drug prices are high compared to other European countries.

Representatives of the Irish Pharmacy Union and the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, which represents the makers of patented drugs, were speaking at the Oireachtas health committee on the issue of drug prices.

Constantly falling prices can lead to shortage of commonly used medicines, Kathy Maher, president of the IPU warned, as supplies and wholesales take higher prices in other countries.

Medicine prices have fallen dramatically in recent years and would continue to fall, she said though the State’s drug bill would come under pressure as a result of an increasing number of patients and the cost of new, high-tech medicines.

Leisha Daly, president of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, said prices in Ireland were neither the highest nor the lowest in Europe. An audit last year found the prices of patent drugs were within 1.8 per cent of the average for the basket of countries with which Ireland is grouped for pricing purposes.

Dr Daly said it was time for a new agreement between drugmakers and the State. The current three-year deal runs out in October.

Sandra Gannon, general manager of Teva Pharmaceuticals, the State’s biggest manufacturer of generic medicines, said savings of €113 million in extra savings could be achieved by opening up competition in low-value medicines, getting hospitals to switch from expensive biological medicines to biosimilars, allowing pharmacists greater scope to dispense cheaper drugs to patients and by providing incentives for the prescribing of devices such as inhalers.

A number of TDs pointed out that drug costs in Spain were much lower than in Ireland, and that many patients travel north of the Border to fill their prescriptions more cheaply.

Representatives of the IPU and IPHA responded by pointing out that Spain generally is a lower-cost economy than Ireland, with different prescribing practices.

Dr Daly claimed the problem with the price differential between Ireland and Spain related to generic drugs, not those still on patent.