Access to life-saving drugs

 

Sir, – Life-saving medicines and drugs are becoming prohibitively expensive, up to a point where this endangers the lives and health of patients.

A lack of transparency around what different countries pay for medicines and the actual cost of researching, developing and manufacturing treatments allows pharmaceutical corporations to charge exorbitant and arbitrary prices. This is a bad deal for both patients and the health systems which care for them. In Ireland, high prices have limited patients’ access to medicines.

This year, the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics reported that the HSE had almost used its entire annual budget for purchasing new drugs after only three months, and last month it was reported that expensive new cancer drugs would be available only for private patients with VHI cover.

At the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva next week, a resolution aimed at improving transparency in markets for drugs, vaccines and other health-related technologies will be tabled.

If passed, the resolution, which is proposed and supported by 10 countries – including Italy, Spain and Portugal – would make valuable information about prices paid, the cost and price structure of medicines, their quality, safety and effectiveness available for governments. This would significantly strengthen the Irish Government’s negotiating position and enhance its ability to obtain more affordable prices for medicines.

Medicines save lives, keep us healthy and alleviate suffering. There is no reason that governments should wish to remain in the dark on pricing, quality, safety or efficacy when negotiating for something as vital as medicines. Neither should the public be refused access to such important information.

Ireland must help put lives over profit and support the transparency resolution at next week’s World Health Assembly. – Yours, etc,

Dr KIERAN HARKIN,

Access to Medicines Ireland,

ISABEL SIMPSON,

Director, Médecins Sans

Frontières Ireland, AVERIL

POWER, CEO, Irish Cancer

Society, Dr PADRAIG

McGARRY, President, IMO,

STEPHAN McMAHON,

Co-founder, Irish Patients

Association, FINTAN FOY,

CEO, ICGP, PAUL

GILLIGAN, CEO, St

Patrick’s Mental Health

Service, NADINE FERRIS

FRANCE, Executive

Director, Irish Forum for

Global Health, ANN

NOLAN, Asst Prof in Global

Health, Trinity Centre for

Global Health, ANTHONY

STAINES, Prof of Health

Systems, DCU, Prof SAM J

Mc CONKEY, Deputy Dean,

RCSI, Dr MARK MURPHY,

Lecturer, RCSI , RONÁN

CONWAY, Prof of Health

Research Methods, RCSI, Dr

KEVIN BROWN, Asst Prof in

Clinical Medicine, TCD,

URSULA Mc CARTHY,

Franciscan Missionaries of

St Joseph, HEYDI FOSTER,

CEO, Misean Cara, MARK

CUMMING, Head of

Comhlámh, Sr WINIFRED

OJO, Institute leader, Sisters

of St Louis, Dr CIARA

CONLON, Universities

Allied for Essential

Medicines , PHIL Ní SHEAGHDHA,

General Secretary

Designate, INMO,

C/o Access to Medicines

Ireland, Dublin 2.