Thursday 17 October 2019

Drug-access delays 'a threat to future pharma investment'

Senior industry executive says 'broken system' here is frustrating global HQs

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Fearghal O'Connor

The Government has been warned the "broken system" for new medicines is damaging Ireland's prospects for attracting new investment and jobs for the country's vital pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.

A failure to fix issues hampering access of new medicines into the Irish market could ultimately lessen the ability of Ireland to attract investment, one of the country's most senior pharma executives has warned. The sector directly employs 30,000 people.

Pharma executives have unsuccessfully sought meetings with government officials to try and sort out a row over the pricing of new high-tech medicines, according to Aidan Lynch, president of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA).

Patients are waiting up to two-and-a-half years for some drugs to be approved by health authorities, with Ireland falling from first in Europe for drug access to 15th in the last six years, he said.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We are not a wealthy country that can simply accept exorbitant asking prices for drugs just so that we can climb some league table in terms of speed of reimbursement compared to other countries."

But Lynch, who has led pharma giant GSK's Irish operation since 2012, said the issue was causing frustration at the global HQs of the major drug manufacturers, including at his own company.

"Market access is a factor. Is it the most important factor? No. But it is a factor. You don't turn on or off pharmaceutical investment overnight but, over time, if Ireland continues to be known as a country where market access is difficult I think there is an inevitability around investment decisions.

"We need to start having conversations around doing things differently - because what we have right now is clearly not working.

"Medicines are not getting to patients quickly enough. Many of those medicines are manufactured here and yet they get to patients in other countries two years ahead of getting to Irish patients," said Lynch.

"The attitude across all of the HQs would be one of frustration," he added.

"Not just frustration around the speed of access, but also the lack of transparency around what is wrong in the system."

He rejected a recent accusation by the clinical director of the National Centre for Pharmoeconomics - the State body that advises the HSE on the cost-effectiveness of medicines - that pharma companies here were involved in "predatory pricing".

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