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The State will save approximately €15 million next year, in addition to an estimated €140 million already made under the 2016 Framework Agreement on the Supply and Pricing of Medicines between IPHA, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Expenditure and reform and the HSE.

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) has announced that the cost of 780 medicines, most of which are supplied by member companies, will fall by July 1st next.

One stipulation in last year’s Framework Agreement was that the annual realignment of prices would be done to the average of 14 European reference countries.

Oliver O’Connor, IPHA CEO, criticised the HSE for failing to see to their end of the agreement, as they currently do not have any remaining budget for new medicines. He claimed that this situation is “unacceptable” as the IPHA member companies “continue to deliver savings” in accordance with the Agreement.

He continued: “Despite very large savings to the State, medicines that are routinely available in other EU member states are not available to patients in Ireland”.

This year, the HSE budget for the Primary Care Reimbursement Service was set with minimal growth of €5m on a €2.556bn base (0.2 per cent). Patients are being left at a disadvantage, as the HSE has had to resort to routinely requesting approval from the Department of Health for medicines it has already agreed to fund because it has surpassed its budget.

Mr O’Connor stated that this is not good enough, also claiming that the reimbursement process is significantly slower in Ireland compared to other European countries.

“Now there are 10 critical new medicines currently badly delayed for patients who need them but they are reimbursed in the health services in nearly all our 14 reference countries already. Some are already available in 18 or more countries.

“Despite the fact that the Agreement states that it ‘will ensure that Ireland remains at the forefront of its European peers in terms of early access,’ our approval process is simply not working well. It now takes an average of 348 days post authorisation for medicines to be reimbursed for patients and sometimes it can take several years”.