Patients who are taking the cancer-fight drug Purinethol have been surprised to see the cost increase substantially since March, even though the price of medicines generally is falling.
Junior health minister Alex White explained that, occasionally, price increases are required to maintain supplies of specific essential medicines.
"However, the HSE each year refuses a significant number of requests for price increases. Less than 50 price increases were allowed in the eight years between 2006 and 2013."
He said that in October 2012, the manufacturer of Purinethol informed the HSE that, following an examination of the viability of a number of product lines, it had decided to increase the price of Purinethol in Ireland and a number of other EU countries (including Germany, UK, Denmark and Finland). "The HSE engaged with the manufacturer in an attempt to negotiate a reduced price, however, the manufacturer was unwilling to do so.
"As the manufacturer is the sole supplier of the product in Ireland, the HSE accepted the price increase in order to safeguard the supply of this essential medicine.
"The HSE granted the price increase with effect from March 1, 2013.
"Despite this increase, there is still only one supplier of the drug in the Irish market, which suggests that the HSE made the right decision in allowing the price increase in order to maintain supply."
It was important to note that the Irish price for Purinethol was not out of line with international prices, he added.