HSE urged to reward GPs who prescribe 'cost-effective' drugs
The HSE is being urged to relaunch a scheme which would reward GPs who prescribe patients cheaper drugs with funding to develop their practices.
The cost-effective drugs would be of the same quality as more expensive branded versions.
The plan is coming from the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics, which assesses the efficacy and cost of new drugs and recommends if they be made available to patients. It has suggested that GPs should be incentivised to prescribe from a list of "preferred drugs".
The aim would be to generate savings in the drugs' budget which could in turn help in freeing up funds for expensive new medicines.
These preferred drugs, which have been evaluated, should be the drug of first choice for doctors.
A previous scheme, which led to investment in general practice in return for more prescribing of cheaper versions of drugs, was stalled after it no longer proved to be successful in helping to control the drugs' bill.
The HSE was unable to respond to the proposal yesterday.
However, as more patient groups call on the HSE to fund expensive new treatments there is a recognition that efforts need to be stepped up to opt for more cost-effective alternatives to branded drugs.
Medicines for Ireland (MFI), the largest supplier of medicines to the HSE, said there is potential to "save millions in the annual drugs' bill". It said that each year the HSE spends more than €280m on the more expensive biologic medicines, despite more affordable biosimilars being available on the Irish market.
Biosimilar medicines are similar to biologics which are medicines made from living micro-organisms found in plant or animal cells.
The organisation said that "biosimilar medicines represent only 6pc of the total share of the market in Ireland, compared to as much as 90pc in other EU states".
A promised National Biosimilars Policy for Ireland has still not been brought forward despite a public consultation in 2017.