Friday 23 March 2018

Drug price cuts must be passed on - HSE

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Private patients who pay out of their own pockets for medicines have been urged to put pressure on pharmacists and demand price cuts.

A new deal between the Department of Health and pharmaceutical companies aims to save €785m in the HSE drugs bill for medical card and hospital patients over the next four years.

The same price cuts apply to drugs supplied to pharmacies for private patients, although they are subject to dispensing fees and mark-ups for customers.

A spokesman for the HSE said, however, said that private patients - who are part of the Drugs Payment Scheme - should be vigilant and ensure they are benefiting from any reductions.

Health Minister Simon Harris said yesterday the State's drugs bill will continue to rise but this will slow the pace of growth.

The deal, which only covers branded medicines - with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) representing drugs giants - will see the number of countries Irish prices are compared to expanded to 14, including Greece, Italy and Portugal.

Another important element is that realignment of prices here will now happen annually in line with cuts in other countries, not every few years.

A rebate of 5.25pc will rise to 5.5pc in the coming years.

The Department of Health put the savings at €750m but the IPHA said they would amount to €785m, or nearly €200m a year.

The prices in Ireland will only be compared to "listed" prices in other countries and do not take discounts into account.

Mr Harris said there is provision to allow the Cabinet make the ultimate decision on whether to make expensive new blockbuster medicines available.

This would be only related to funding and all other factors would be clinical decisions, he added.

The deal was deemed poor value by the makers of biosimilar drugs, saying their products could be 30pc cheaper.

Irish Independent

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