Sunday 22 January 2017

Harris asks other Health Ministers for support in securing cystic fibrosis drug at more affordable price

Published 29/11/2016 | 18:17

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke

Health Minister Simon Harris has written to his counterparts in England, Scotland, Canada and Australia to form a collective bid to secure the drug Orkambi for cystic fibrosis sufferers at an affordable price.

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He said he is asking other health ministers to “collaborate to try and make progress on accessing Orkambi at a cost effective price for cystic fibrosis patients in each of their countries.”

Around 500 Irish cystic fibrosis patients are desperate to try the blockbuster drug but the price quoted by makers  Vertex is too exhorbitant.

The Minister said health services in Ireland, England, Scotland, Canada and Australia have all been considering access to Orkambi for people with cystic fibrosis and have been engaging with the pharmaceutical company, Vertex.

“ No decision has been taken to reimburse the treatment in any of these countries to date and the Department has yet to receive the formal decision of the HSE Directorate in relation to Orkambi,

"Our country has a great track record of making new and innovative treatment available to patients. I am determined that this continues. Securing access to treatments for patients at an affordable price remains the key priority. However, we cannot have a situation whereby exorbitant prices make it effectively impossible to access a new treatment like Orkambi. 

 "Since coming to office, I have sought greater collaboration with other countries on accessing drugs. Therefore, I have now written to my counterparts in England, Scotland, Canada and Australia and asked that they would collaborate with us to try and ensure we secure access for our cystic fibrosis patients to Orkambi at an affordable and cost-effective price.

“ We must, I believe, adopt a common approach to engaging with this pharmaceutical company to learn from each other's engagements to date and ultimately to try and achieve a fairer price for this medicine for the benefit of all of our cystic fibrosis patients and their families.”

He assured  cystic fibrosis patients that the process for accessing Orkambi is not over but that the manufacturer must further engage on a meaningful and innovative basis and significantly reduce their price.

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