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Conway-Walsh seeks review of decision to restrict Versatis pain relief

15 February, 2018 - by Rose Conway-Walsh

Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has said that the HSE decision to restrict access to Versatis must be reviewed and the pain relief patches reinstated until such time as the concerns regarding its withdrawal are addressed.  

Senator Conway-Walsh encouraged Oireachtas members from all parties and none to use their political influence to ensure that the decision which has impacted on up to 25,000 patients, their families, and the medical profession is reviewed.  

The Senator hosted a briefing in Leinster House where representatives of Arthritis Ireland, Chronic Pain Ireland and patients currently using the drug addressed the meeting.

Speaking this morning, the Senator from Mayo said:

“Not only has this decision caused suffering and anxiety of the patients directly affected, it has undermined the relationship between patients, consultants and GPs. The HSE issued no guidance to GPs in relation to helping patients off Versatis and identifying alternative effective treatment. This morning, we heard the process of applying for continued access to the drug is taking up to an hour and a half of already overburdened GPSs with no guarantee of a successful appeal.

“The issue of how the HSE negotiates pricing structure with pharmaceutical companies has now come into sharp focus. This case needs to be a wakeup call for the HSE. We are unsure as to whether the HSE conducted a proper cost benefit analysis when making the decision. The additional costs of alternative medicine, treatment, hospitalisation, homecare packages/home help hours and anti-depressants has to be taken into account, as well as the loss of working hours, social isolation and exclusion.

“What we heard today was the first-hand, lived experience of people who are using Versatis and who have confirmed that it improves their quality of life immensely. There appears to be no correlation between the rationale to restrict access to the medication and the direct experience of patients who have benefit from it.

“We are indebted to all those who have shared their experiences in relation to Versatis with us, Chronic Pain Ireland, Arthritis Ireland, RTE and all of the medical professionals who have shared their expertise and knowledge with us.

“Today, John Lindsay from Chronic Pain Ireland outlined substantial clinical evidence from United States, Germany and Britain.  Brian Lynch from Arthritis Ireland spoke said there had to be a role for lived experience and patient/public involvement.

“I will be raising these issues with the Minister again when he attends the Seanad debate on Versatis next Wednesday at 3.30pm. Patients and doctors are urgently seeking clarification and the longer they are waiting, the more distress and discomfort is caused to them.” 

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