More than 10,000 patients with serious medical conditions are losing out on access to 11 new medicines which are "stuck in a backlog for over a year" because of a failure of government to fund them, it emerged yesterday.
The new treatments are for cancer, colitis, migraine, short bowel syndrome and Parkinson's disease.
Two of the medicines for treating melanoma and Parkinson's disease are manufactured in Ireland and most of the medicines are widely available across the EU, according to the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) which represents the main drug companies.
It is calling on the Government to release funding for the drugs in next week's Budget.
An IPHA spokesman said a government decision last July to stop funding new medicines for the rest of that year had caused a backlog of unfunded treatments.
"The then-Minister for Public Expenditure wrote to the then-Minister for Health, saying 'no new dugs should be introduced for the remainder of 2019'," said the spokesman.
He added: "That policy decision remains in place, with the exception of funding for a small number of medicines for Covid-19-related conditions.
"Next year, the industry expects to bring forward 56 new medicines to treat a range of serious medical conditions - but unless there is funding for them, they will not benefit patients."
Oliver O'Connor, chief executive of the IPHA, said next week's Budget is an opportunity for the Government to signal that it backs the adoption of innovation by providing funding for new medicines.
He said: "Joint funding is our proposal. The State and the industry would come together to fund new medicines. It is the fairest way to ensure that patients in Ireland have access to the latest breakthrough treatments, just like many of their peers in western Europe.
"That we are excellent at making medicines but poor at adopting them in the health services amounts to an innovation paradox. Clinically and reputationally, this is not good for Ireland. The Government should move to clear the backlog - and, in the Budget, provide new funding for new medicines in the pipeline. That would enable the industry to substantially contribute to the cost of new medicines, too."
The IPHA has proposed joint industry-State funding for new innovative medicines in an agreement to succeed the extended one that expires at the end of January. Covid-19 has delayed the start of formal discussions on a new agreement.
The proposed joint funding model recognises that both industry and the State share a responsibility to give patients the best treatment options.
A recent survey by analysts shows that Irish patients are waiting 521 days before their doctors can prescribe the latest reimbursed treatments for medical conditions that are often serious.
It examined 172 medicines licensed for prescription to patients by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) between January 2015 and December 2018. Ireland ranks 19th out of 34 European countries for speed of access to some new medicines, according to the survey. Germany and Denmark were top of the league.