Wednesday, 5th November 2014
- Detailed examination of the costs of medicine needed.
Speaking at the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association’s launch of its information booklet ‘Bringing Health and Growth to Ireland’ I questioned the current costs of medication in Ireland and proposed that the issue be examined in detail by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children.
The patient who goes into his or her local pharmacy constantly asks why their medicine costs so much. They ask why when they go on holidays, can they buy medicines at much lower costs?
We are told that international reference pricing is used and that a basket of nine countries are used to determine prices in Ireland. If this is so then we need a further explanation of the variation in prices between each country. We should know how and why the particular reference countries are chosen?
The amount spent on medicines accounts for around 13% of the health budget. The cost to the HSE of drugs and medicines supplied under the GMS and community drug schemes, including the High Tech Drugs Scheme, was €1.547 billion in 2012. It is estimated that the 2013 spend will be in the region of €1.426 billion. This year the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013 is expected to deliver further savings of around €50 million. Despite these saving the costs of medicines continue pose a challenge to all stakeholders.
To the consumer it seems that the price of medicines is higher here than it is in other countries. New medicines, high tech drugs and personalised medicines are being brought to market at what seem to be ever increasing prices. Therefore it is necessary that pricing models are explained in a way that makes sense. Industry, policy makers and consumers need to engage in a conversation about the cost of medicines. This is an issue that should be examined in detail by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children early in 2015.
We must address some ethical and social considerations. The questions that need to be answered include how we determine the cost-to-benefit ratio and what changes need to be made to our systems of reimbursement? This is required so that we can maximise the reach and benefit of the innovation and advancements made by the pharmaceutical industry. An examination of all of the issues involved by the Health Committee can help to achieve a pricing structure that delivers value for both patients and taxpayers.