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Emphysema patients held to ransom – Lynn Boylan MEP

16 February, 2017 - by Lynn Boylan MEP


Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan says pharmaceutical companies can no longer be allowed to hold patients and health services to ransom.

The Dublin MEP was reacting to news of the threat hanging over a small group of emphysema sufferers, who face the prospect of losing access to a potentially life-changing new drug on grounds of cost.

Boylan said:

“Earlier this month, I backed a campaign to put the needs of patients before the profit margins of shareholders by making life-saving and life-changing medicines affordable to those in desperate need, both in Ireland and across the world.

“The current system of developing new life-saving drugs results in medicine prices as high as the market will bear. That is the situation this week with emphysema sufferers. Some 20 patients are due to lose access to Respreeza because the HSE drugs group will not pay the cost of over €100,000 per patient being sought by CSL Behring. Another 40 are waiting for access to the treatment. Next week another category of patients will be in the news for the same reason, effectively hostages in a scenario where ill-health is ruthlessly exploited for profit.

“The current model is cruel and unsustainable. The HSE has a duty of care to Irish emphysema sufferers but these scandalous prices for new drugs is placing health services across the globe in a hugely difficult position. Pharmaceutical companies can no longer be allowed to hold patients and health services to ransom.

“The problem is that medical innovation is primarily incentivised by the guarantee that new products receive a 20-year patent-based monopoly, during which period the pharmaceutical companies can charge prices in absolute multiples of the relatively small amount it costs to produce these life-saving drugs.

“What is needed is a new system of R&D funding, one that places the needs of patients before the profit margins of shareholders. The current system was originally intended as an incentive to aid research. It’s time to redress the balance in favour of patients by devising a new R&D model without these exploitative patents.”

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