International agreement aimed at securing affordable and timely access to new medicines for Irish patients

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has signed an agreement to work with Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to secure affordable and timely access to new medicines for Irish patients.

The agreement to join the existing Beneluxa Initiative on Pharmaceutical Policy was signed at the EPSCO Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

Speaking from Luxembourg, Minister Harris said

“I am delighted that Ireland is now a member of the Beneluxa Initiative on Pharmaceutical Policy. Securing timely access for patients to new medicines in an affordable and sustainable way is one of my key objectives as Health Minister and I am committed to working with my European colleagues to identify workable solutions, in what is an increasingly challenging environment.”

As Ireland signed up to the BeNeLuxA Initiative on pricing and supply of innovative medicines, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) has said the focus of policymakers and industry must remain on fixing a slow and inefficient medicines approvals process for Irish patients. 

The BeNeLuxA Initiative includes Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Austria. But figures show that Ireland lags the countries in the BeNeLuxA group when it comes to access to innovative medicines.

“The figures are stark,”said Oliver O’Connor, Chief Executive of IPHA, which represents the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Ireland.

Just 22% of the new medicines launched in 2014-15 were available in Ireland by the end of 2016, compared to 30% for Belgium, 38% for the Netherlands and 52% for Austria. When it comes to cancer medicines, the situation is even worse. Just 20% of new cancer medicines launched in 2014-15 were available in Ireland by the end of 2016, compared to 28% for Belgium, 60% for the Netherlands and 76% for Austria.”

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