Reilly says bill for generics will fall


MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has admitted the cost of generic medicines is too high but claims forthcoming talks with drug manufacturers will result in significant reductions in the price consumers have to pay.

Drug companies would no longer have to use Ireland-specific packaging on their medicines, under proposals being developed by the Department of Health to encourage them to drop prices.

Under the existing agreement, drug manufacturers are entitled to charge Irish consumer multiples of the prices applying in other European countries, and up to 98 per cent of the price of the original branded medicine.

On the eve of crucial talks with the sector aimed at cutting €50 million a year from the State’s drugs bill, a spokesman for Dr Reilly admitted the cost of generics was “way too high” but added he intended to end the situation where people in the Republic were forced to pay far more for their essential medications than patients in Northern Ireland.

Talks with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, representing the makers of branded drugs, start next week and will be drawn to a close quickly, he said.

The Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Ireland, for generic drug manufacturers, was on notice of talks and the need to make “significant reductions”.

Dr Reilly is looking for a major shift to generic prescribing, as well as a significant cut in the volume of prescribing in areas such as antibiotics and tranquillisers.

A new Bill to introduce reference pricing would be given the highest priority in the Oireachtas this autumn, the spokesman said.

Under the Bill, the State will be obliged only to cover the cost of the best-value medicine for a particular treatment, and medical card patients who want a more expensive drug will have to pay the balance. Price levels set by the State would take account of prices in other countries.

The Bill will also allow pharmacists to substitute a cheaper generic drug for a branded one.

Under current rules, they may only supply the medicine listed on a prescription, even where a cheaper alternative is available.

Generic drugs are copies that can be made once the patent on the original branded drug expires.