Thursday 22 August 2019

Ireland ranks 20th out of 27 countries for speed of access to new medicines

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Ireland now ranks in 20th place out of 27 European countries for patients’ speed of access to new medicines, a survey reveals today.

Irish patients are also waiting well over a year before decisions are made by the HSE on whether to fund cutting edge drugs.

Germany is best for getting new medicines to patients in the quickest time with decisions made in just over three months.

The findings have emerged in data from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations  Patient WAIT Indicator Survey  which is released by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA).

It comes after the HSE recently admitted its €10m funding for new medicines in 2019 is already spent .

The average wait  time for a decision on funding a new medicine across the 27 countries was 413 days with Ireland at 486 days.

A spokesman for the IPHA said the wait times  Irish patients have deteriorated since last year when the figure was 408 days.

“By contrast, Denmark, with a population size similar to our own, has a wait time of 146 days. Last year, their figure was 155 days,” he added.

Ireland is lagging when it comes to  availability of new medicines- ranking 16th in the table of 27 countries.

Less than half of the new medicines licensed for prescription to patients by the European Medicines Agency in 2015, 2016 and 2017 were available and funded for patients  here at the end of 2018.

Ireland’s  record if particularly poor for financing medicines for rare diseases with so called orphan drugs.

Less than a third of these medicines licensed between  2015-17 were accessible to patients here at the end despite the fact that  300,000 people in Ireland are affected by rare diseases during their lifetime.

IPHA chief executive Oliver O’Connor said the data backs up “a growing trend of evidence showing that Ireland has a severe problem accessing new medicines.

“We rightly aspire to be among the best in Europe. For example, Government policy is to achieve cancer survival rates among the top seven countries in Europe.

“Our speed of access to medicines needs to be the same to deliver that. Ireland actually has income per capita comparable with, or even higher than, countries like Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Spain. Yet, we lag these and many other countries in speed of access to new medicines.

“Marking World Health Day yesterday, we are urging the Government to set a simple policy goal: to place Ireland in the top seven of European countries for speed of access to new medicines. We must agree a destination and, then work out, together, how we get there.”

“Life expectancy for a child born in Ireland today is 80.6 years. A child born in 1925 could expect to live until they were 57.65 years. In less than a century, life expectancy has risen by 23 years. That is down, in part, to major steps forward in biopharmaceutical research, and advances in prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment.

“We have better perinatal care now, too, and infant mortality rates have dropped. Antibiotics have helped to control infectious diseases. “

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