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‘Brexit Budget’ must not further delay new medicines for patients, says IPHA

As health budget rises by €1bn, an 'adequate allocation' for new medicines is vital

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) has said the ‘Brexit budget’ announced today [Tuesday] must not further delay the Health Service Executive’s approval of new medicines, causing standards of care for patients to fall relative to European countries.

IPHA, which represents the originator biopharmaceutical industry, called for an ‘adequate allocation for new medicines’ as the Government announced an extra €1 billion in health spending.

The industry body said the large savings generated by its members’ discounts and rebates on existing medicines should be clearly and deliberately invested into new, innovative treatments.

The move would arrest the continued slide in State funding for new medicines in recent years, with the shortfall causing patients in Ireland to wait much longer than their peers in western Europe for access to the latest treatments.

“The pharmaceutical industry is a key presence in Ireland’s economy, generating value through jobs and investments that are regionally spread. The industry appreciates the challenges posed by a potential no-deal Brexit. We continue to support the Government’s efforts to ensure the supply of medicines to patients in all scenarios,” said IPHA’s Chief Executive, Oliver O’Connor.

“However, continuing to make new medicines available in a timely way is as important as continuing the supply of existing medicines. Otherwise, the standard of care for Irish patients falls back. Over recent years, Ireland has been slow and late in approving new medicines. Today’s Budget must not further slow the approval of vital new medicines for patients,” he added. “In this Brexit budget, it is all the more important that savings be transparently invested in new medicines.”

“We are convinced the promising new medicines and therapies can be funded for timely access. We are open to discussing further solutions with the Government – but the priorities must be clear: faster access to new medicines, funded transparently both by savings and an Exchequer allocation. As the HSE prepares its service plan over the coming weeks, medicines must be treated as an investment in standards of care for patients – and not just as another cost,” said Mr O’Connor.

The Government’s own analysis in summer showed that health spending increased by €4 billion over 2014-18.

“More than 90% of health spending growth was on areas other than medicines, like pay and pensions. Less than 10% was on medicines. Without an additional Exchequer allocation for new medicines, today’s Budget will worsen that trend. New staff without new medicines on time will not add up to best standards of care,” said Mr O’Connor.

The industry has an agreement in play with the State on the pricing and supply of medicines. This is the last year of the agreement’s four-year lifespan. The agreement provides stability and certainty for the State and for patients, setting certain parameters on the pricing of medicines and ensuring continuity in the supply of medicines. The projected savings over the four years through discounts and rebates is €785 million.

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