Medicines for Ireland urges fundamental reform of medicine procurement as supply increasingly at risk

  • Leading Irish medicine suppliers join together to drive reform agenda
  • Reforms vital to safeguard patients, as medicine shortages, access and affordability a growing concern
  • 90% increase in spend on High-Tech scheme adds to growing affordability crisis

A new national healthcare organisation, Medicines for Ireland, has launched today (Monday, 19 June) and is calling for a fundamental reform of medicine policy in Ireland. The group has warned that without critical reforms and a long-term strategy for medicine procurement Irish patients will face increasing difficulty in accessing and affording life-saving medicines.

Medicines for Ireland is a grouping of key medicine suppliers including some of the largest suppliers of medicines to the HSE. The new organisation is a coming together of the memberships of Healthcare Enterprise Alliance and the Irish Generic Manufacturers Association. Its members include Accord Healthcare, Consilient Healthcare, Clonmel Healthcare, Fannin Healthcare, Mylan, Pinewood Healthcare, Rowa Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Medicines for Ireland’s membership was to the fore in driving and implementing generic substitution in 2013. This policy change resulted in Ireland’s traditional low levels of generic medicine usage being dramatically reversed.  Usage of generic medicines has grown from 11% to 53% over the last four years, with the State achieving hundreds of million in savings as a result. The new organisation is committed to continuing this reform momentum.

Over the period ahead, Medicine for Ireland’s focus will include:

  • Developing a longer-term vision for medicine procurement;
  • Introducing measures to urgently tackle the growing problem of medicine shortages (with currently over 140 medicines unavailable);
  • Proactive initiatives to create greater competition in the medicines market, particularly hospital medicines where spend has grown from €315 million in 2009 to over €600 million in 2016; and
  • The roll-out of a National Biosimilars Policy which expands the usage of biosimilar medicines, to counterbalance the unsustainable cost of biologic medicines.

Medicines for Ireland is currently finalising a comprehensive policy document which will examine the critical issues facing medicine supply in Ireland and will publish its proposals in the coming weeks.

Sandra Gannon, Joint Chairperson of Medicines for Ireland and General Manager of Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland commenting on the launch of the group noted:

‘Medicines for Ireland’s launch is a significant development. It marks the coming together of the leading players in the supply of medicines in Ireland. We are driven by and share the common objective of improving the supply, accessibility and affordability of medicines for Irish patients. To do so, we need significant reform.

Medicines now play a key part in helping Irish people live better and for much longer than ever before. With the growing importance of medicines, the issue of ensuring that Irish patients can access the treatments they need and the State can continue to pay for these medicines is crucial.

Recent experience has shown such access is no longer guaranteed. Medicine shortages are becoming a worsening problem and increasingly our ability to pay for them is also at risk.

Several factors are threatening the supply of medicines to Irish patients. These include the spiralling cost of the High-Tech Medicines Scheme which has grown by almost €300 million in just seven years (€315 million in 2009 to over €600 million in 2016); increasing medicine shortages with over 140 medicines currently out of stock and the failure to embrace more affordable medicines such as biosimilars’.

Jeffrey Walsh, Joint Chairperson of Medicines for Ireland and Commercial Manager, Pinewood Healthcare, added:

‘We believe that without fundamental reforms at Government, hospital and community levels in how we procure and supply medicines then the existing problems will accelerate. We need reforms across a range of areas including in our national pricing agreements, hospital pharmacy, the extent to which full competition in the market is fostered and in our resistance to adopt newer, more affordable medicines such as biosimilars’.

Noting Ireland’s underdeveloped approach to biosimilars and the failure of the promised public consultation on biosimilars to materialise, Owen McKeon, Board Member, Medicines for Ireland and Country Manager of Mylan Ireland commenting on the launch of the group noted:

‘Time is running out for Irish policy makers to combat rising costs of biological medicines. Irish people have far less access to certain medicines that many of our European neighbours. It’s time for all stakeholders to come together to examine Medicines for Ireland’s proposals’.