The Worst delays in Western Europe

Ten years ago, Irish patients had quick access to the medicines they needed. As of 2018, only 42% of new medicines are available to Irish patients, compared to countries like Germany, Austria and the UK where patients can access over 80% of new medicines.1 Thousands of Irish patients are denied medicines that are widely available elsewhere in the EU.

Patients wait an average of 486 days for a drug to be approved for public funding.1 Some patients face the awful decision of paying a significant amount of money for treatments out of their own pocket or facing the difficult fact that they will not receive the latest, most effective treatments available.

Drug reimbursement in Ireland

The path for new medicines to reach Irish patients is long. This process, sometimes called market access or reimbursement, is outlined here:

Once a new medicine is authorised by the European Commission, the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics typically assesses it for cost effectiveness.

The HSE’s corporate pharmaceutical unit then enters into price negotiations with the pharmaceutical company.

Then, the HSE’s drugs group determines if the HSE should fund the medicine.

They then make a recommendation to the HSE’s leadership team who may make the final decision.

Sometimes, an additional stage has been added, with medicines being sent to the Department of Health who take further time to make a decision.

This means that Irish patients wait an average of 486 days for new and desperately needed medicines to be publicly available.1

This problem can affect all of us. Medicines for MS as well as some of Ireland’s most common conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular disease currently face long delays.2

Patients Doctors The Irish State

Increasingly, patients are hearing that a medicine exists that could save or change their life, but it’s not available in Ireland. Irish patients wait longer than patients almost anywhere else in Western Europe to access medicines they need.1

Delays in medicine access put a strain on a doctor’s ability to deliver the best possible care to patients. Doctors in other EU countries can prescribe life-changing medicines, but doctors here are limited in treatment options because medicines are not available..

A situation has developed where patients and their loved ones are forced to petition the State for a medication they need.3 This is extremely difficult for patients and also means that the State has not been able to rely on a transparent, reliable and fair market access system.

Countries with good medicine access

There are countries that we can learn from, such as Germany, which give patients rapid access to life saving medicines at a fair price to the state. The Irish state, the Irish pharmaceutical industry and patient groups can work together to give Ireland a new access system that puts patients first while getting the best value for tax payers.