In the build-up to World Health Day (April 7th), new figures released by IPHA has revealed that Irish patients face growing delays accessing new medicines, ranking in the bottom half of European countries surveyed.
The data, gathered by IQVIA for the EFPIA Patient WAIT Indicator Survey and released by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), shows Ireland in the 20th position of 27 European countries for speed of access to new medicines. Patients in Ireland wait an average of 486 days for some medicines.
The EFPIA Patient WAIT Indicator Survey shows patients’ access to new medicines is highly varied across Europe, with the greatest rate of availability in Northern and Western European countries and lowest in Southern and Eastern European countries.
The average wait time across the 27 countries was 413 days. Germany came out on top as the fastest country, with medicines licensed by the European Medicines Agency taking 119 days to get to patients there.
The wait time for Irish patients has deteriorated since last year when the figure was 408 days. By contrast, Denmark, with a population size similar to our own, has a wait time of 146 days, an improvement on their rates last year, which was 155 days.
When it comes to the availability of new medicines, Ireland ranked 16th out of the 27 countries. Just 42 per cent of the new medicines licensed for prescription to patients by the European Medicines Agency in 2015, 2016 and 2017 were available and reimbursed in the health services here at the end of 2018.
The data revealed that a mere 29 per cent of new orphan medicines licensed in 2015-17 were accessible to patients in Ireland at the end of 2018.
Oliver O’Connor, Chief Executive of IPHA, said the new data is part of a growing trend of evidence showing that Ireland has a severe problem accessing new medicines.
“We rightly aspire to be among the best in Europe. For example, Government policy is to achieve cancer survival rates among the top seven countries in Europe. Our speed of access to medicines needs to be the same to deliver that. Ireland actually has income per capita comparable with, or even higher than, countries like Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Spain. Yet, we lag these and many other countries in speed of access to new medicines”.
Mr O’Connor urged the Government to prioritise Ireland’s placement in the top seven of European countries for speed of access to new medicines as a new goal.
In less than a century, life expectancy has risen by 23 years; from 57.65 years in 1925 to 80.6 years in Ireland today, which is partly due to major steps forward in biopharmaceutical research, advances in prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment, improved perinatal care, and antibiotics to help control infectious diseases.