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Government must secure agreement to reduce price of medicines – O’Reilly

2 June, 2016 - by Louise O'Reilly TD


Responding to the news that the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics have said that the drug Orkambi cannot be funded at the current price, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Health Louise O’Reilly TD said that “deciding that a drug is too expensive to be funded, without addressing how costs can be reduced through negotiations with relevant companies and sectors is not a tough policy choice, it is a cop out”.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“The ruling from the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics that the breakthrough drug Orkambi was deemed to be too expensive to be funded by the HSE is a shocking blow to not only the Cystic Fibrosis patients for whom the drug was transformative, it is a blow to our health service.

“The underlying issues involved around drug costs in the State are becoming prevalent once more, as patients are often being left without lifesaving medication, because of prohibitive costs. 

“The solution to the pressures on our health services does not lie wholly within acute hospitals, but must also include a greater role for prevention, early intervention and management. In this case, we have a drug that has been wholly transformative to those who have been part of its trial, whose hospital admissions have been reduced and indeed saved by the drug, but the drug will not be funded by the HSE for other patients. 

“Yesterday in the Dáil, Minister Harris noted that ‘there are tough policy choices, trade-offs and decisions to be made, especially in terms of managing resources, addressing performance and ensuring accountability’. Deciding that a drug is too expensive to be funded, without addressing how costs can be reduced through negotiations with relevant companies and sectors is not a tough policy choice, it is a cop out.

“We know that recent negotiations with the IPHA with a view to securing an agreement to reduce the price of medicines and reduce the growth in the drugs and medicines bill to an affordable level collapsed and this will inevitably inhibit the HSE from investing in new and innovative medicines over the next number of years. 

“The issue of high tech drugs will be more and more important in the time ahead. And as scientific breakthroughs are made that can help save lives and extend the lifespan of our population, it is something that we need to get to grips with. Ministers need to make tough choices, but tough choices should not have life or death consequences.

“The makers of Orkambi have stated that they are willing to negotiate with the government and these negotiations need to take place as a matter of priority.” 

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