Held to ransom by drug companies?

Sir, – Patients on the drug Respreeza, used to treat certain forms of emphysema, have been told that this drug will no longer be available (News, February 16th). This is because the HSE has refused to pay the price of €103,000 demanded by the drug company CSL Behring. This is 12 times the price recommended by the HSE drugs group. The HSE is also refusing to pay the price of €159,000 demanded by Vertex for its drug Orkambi used to treat cystic fibrosis. This is over five times the price recommended by the HSE drugs group.

Over 95 per cent of our estimated 40,000 hepatitis C infected patients remain untreated as the HSE is unable to afford the price of €55,000 demanded by Gilead.

These are but a few examples of drugs that are marketed at unaffordable and indeed unjustifiable prices.

As new drugs for cancer and Alzheimers disease are discovered, the problem of affordability will become even greater. The fundamental problem is that drug prices are not determined by development or manufacturing costs but by what the company believes the market will bear.


Governments must legislate, as recommended by the recent UN High-Level Panel Report on Access to Medicines, to ensure that public health is not held to ransom by private industry. – Yours, etc,


Primary Care Centre,


Dublin 8.