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Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) CEO, Oliver O’Connor expressed his dismay at the HSE’s delay in paying for medicines: “The issue is not about pricing. The maximum prices in Ireland are the average of 14 other EU countries. Other countries in Europe have similar pricing and budget controls and yet they provide medicines much faster.

The CEO claimed that Ireland can do better, stating that it is not enough for the IPHA to be doing their part if this is not reciprocated by new Government initiatives on process and budgets.

“There are no good reasons why Ireland should not provide medicines that are available to millions of Europeans already. We are the fastest growing economy in Europe and the Government wants to benchmark us against the best, so it’s time to make this happen for patients awaiting new medicines”, he continued.

The IPHA met with Government representatives last week to discuss Ireland’s thousands of patients who do not have access to medicines for serious conditions.

The association released a statement expressing their disappointment that no assurances were given in the “crunch meeting” by the official side that the currently unavailable medicines will be provided.

Their issue is that these medicines have been through all HSE assessment processes and €140m has been provided in savings by member companies of the IPHA under its agreement with Government. However, patients with serious conditions ranging from heart disease, cancer, and skin condition are unable to access nine new medicines that are routinely available across Europe.

Mr O’Connor stated: “For the nine medicines it has been two and a half years on average from the time of the first application for reimbursements. It is 520 days since the outcome of the full Health Technology Assessment.  This delay is inexcusable and is letting down patients.”

Last year, the Minister for Health welcomed the new agreement between the IPHA and the Government to ensure that Irish patients have access to new and innovative medicines and that Ireland remains at the forefront of its European peers in terms of early access.

While the Government has recently launched a new Cancer Strategy with the aim of placing Ireland in the top quartile in Europe in cancer outcomes, the IPHA are of the opinion that their efforts so far have not been good enough.

“The Government is clearly failing on its own policy: No progress has been made on access to new and innovative medicines, instead they are routinely delayed and sent for political decision to the Minister for Health.

“Ireland is certainly not at the forefront of European peers, instead we are lagging and getting worse”.

Ireland currently sits 16th out of 26 countries in use of newly authorised medicines.

“At that meeting IPHA pressed our analysis that the HSE had enough money in its 2017 budget to fund new medicines, given the €140m savings IPHA members have provided. We pointed out that Health was reported as underspent by €21m in the June Exchequer returns. No evidence was offered showing an inability to fund new medicines this year. Yet the delays continue.

“You certainly can’t bring the best treatments to cancer patients, and others, if you provide for no growth at all in the medicines budget”, Mr O’Connor continued.

The IPHA urged the Government to take all necessary measures in speeding up the medicines approval process, calling on Minister Harris to set out clear, practical policies on how he intends to deliver this promise to patients and how he is going to measure and report performance relative to European peers.