IPHA rejects NCPE’s charge of ‘illegality’ over ‘predatory’ medicines pricing

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), which represents pharmaceutical innovators, has rejected a claim made today [Monday] by the National Centre for Pharmoeconomics (NCPE) that medicines pricing is ‘predatory’, saying that it amounts to a charge of illegality against the industry.

The NCPE is the body that advises the Health Service Executive (HSE) on the cost-effectiveness of medicines.

Oliver O’Connor, CEO of IPHA, said the NCPE had accused the industry of “predatory” pricing. “That is an accusation of illegality which our industry utterly rejects. It is not acceptable for the NCPE, a State agency, to level an accusation of that import against our industry, especially when it is without foundation. The State knows the significance of our industry – 30,000 jobs, enormous investment in manufacturing and research, and a positive impact on healthcare outcomes for patients with serious illnesses. We have worked closely with the State on Brexit preparations, acknowledged by the Tánaiste just last week. And, yet, the NCPE, another arm of the State, is accusing the industry of illegality. Apart from the claim having no foundation, it is irresponsible,” said Mr O’Connor.

Ireland has a serious and sustained problem with access to new medicines. Patients here are among the last in western Europe to get the benefits of innovative treatments. The delay is not due to the price of medicines in Ireland – all countries in western Europe assess, negotiate and agree prices similar to what is offered here.

“We do not have higher prices than the average of these other countries. As part of our deal with the State on pricing and supply, we have delivered hundreds of millions of euro in savings through discounts and rebates – yet speed of access to innovative medicines remains among the worst in Europe. This is deeply unfair to patients,” said Mr O’Connor.

In October last year, IPHA analysed the reimbursement datesin 14 of the nominated EU States (the ‘basket of 14’) for 18 products which had been reimbursed or at least discussed by the HSE Drugs Group that year. The analysis found that, on average, the products were available in 12.3 out of the 14 countries. The wait time to reimbursement was two-and-a-half times the average of other western European countries.

“There is no justification for denying access to some innovative medicines for patients in Ireland when their western European peers can get them, especially when prices here are no higher than the average of the ‘basket of 14’ in other reference countries. At the same time, our industry is investing billions globally on the development of new medicines.

“As we approach Rare Disease Day on Thursday, we have urged policymakers to set a simple policy goal: to place Ireland in the top seven countries in the EU28 for speed of access to new medicines. Without laying down a marker like this, nothing will really change. We believe a better way can be found, with industry and Government working together towards a specific goal to drive change. We have a lot of catching up to do. This is urgent,” said Mr O’Connor.

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