HSE threatens to cut the price of drugs if new deal not reached
Drug companies are continuing to hike up the cost of several medicines in Ireland despite industry claims that prices are now at a European average.
It comes as the Cabinet yesterday gave the go-ahead to the HSE to begin a process which could see it use its powers for the first time to enforce a cut in the price of some drugs in around three months.
It follows the failure of the HSE and the Department of Health to reach agreement earlier this month on a drugs prices deal to slow the rate of increase in the cost of medicines between now and 2019.
The current drugs bill is around €1.7bn, but that threatens to spiral by nearly 10pc a year unless some rein on costs is agreed.
Talks on the deal, which began in March, ended in a stalemate earlier this month after health officials insisted the prices being set by the drugs companies could not be sustained.
Under 2013 legislation, the HSE can impose drugs cuts but the process could take around three months because it must allow the manufacturers time to respond.
The threat of unilateral cuts is expected to force the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) back to the negotiating table.
The HSE must make €110m in drugs savings this year through price reductions and other measures such as more use of generic medicines.
That target is now unlikely to be met and the HSE may have to look at other services to make the savings.
Reacting to the threat, the IPHA said it had engaged in good faith negotiations since the end of March with officials on behalf of Government.
A spokesman said: "We have not ended these negotiations. We are surprised by correspondence and Government briefings today.
"We have now asked for meetings with ministers, in the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure and Reform, to discuss the realistic proposals."