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Drug firms say they won't reduce prices

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Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Picture: Arthur Carron

Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Picture: Arthur Carron

Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Picture: Arthur Carron

DRUGS companies have vowed not to reduce the prices of their most profitable medicines - despite a warning by Health Minister Leo Varadkar that he may invoke legislation forcing them to do so.

Mr Varadkar said he wants the pharmaceutical giants to cut the price of their patented drugs and, if they don't, he will consider using his powers to impose the reductions. These powers have never been called on. But, as Ireland remains an expensive country for medicines, they could see him taking on an industry employing 25,000 Irish workers.

He wants to free up funds from Ireland's €2bn drugs spend to pay for the growing number of costly and potentially life-changing medicines which are becoming available.

"The minister is keen to do this in cooperation with the industry. Should this not prove possible all alternatives including the use of provisions of existing legislation will have to be considered," said his spokesman.

However, Oliver O'Connor of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, which represents the big drugs companies, said there can be no price cuts until a three-year deal on costs with the Department of Health has run its course in nine months' time.

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