Extending access to Soliris a relief for patients – Buttimer

Wednesday, 4th February 2015

  • HSE extends access to Eculizumab (Soliris)
  • Exorbitant costs of new drugs and how much is paid by the State must be examined

The decision of the HSE to extend access to Eculizumab to people diagnosed with PNH and aHUS will come as a relief.  There have been protracted efforts by patients, their representatives and public representatives to get the HSE to make this decision.  I would like to thank the HSE for taking this decision which will make a huge difference to the day to day lives of people with these rare diseases.

Everyone’s efforts to bring about this decision again bring into focus the issue of the cost of medicines.  Eculizumab costs €430,000 per patient per year and efforts to get the manufacture to reduce its price were unsuccessful.  We need to examine closely how our drug purchasing model work and what can be done to reduce the costs to taxpayers.  Doing this can have two effects, it can save money and it can allow resources to diverted to other areas of the health service.

Over the next few months the Health Committee will be examining these broader policy issues.  I hope that this will allow us to ask why drug companies can in effect hold the HSE and Department of Health to ransom.

Posted under Health, National Work

Public Health Bill to tackle misuse of alcohol – Buttimer

Jerry Buttimer TD at launch of Misuse of Alcohol Report

Jerry Buttimer TD at launch of Misuse of Alcohol Report

Tuesday 3rd February 2015

  • Heads of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 published by Government.

The proposals in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 will help to tackle the misuse of alcohol which occurs across large portions of Irish society.  This Bill is a very significant step it is the first time that alcohol misuse is being addressed as a public health issue.

In January 2012 I launched a report by the Committee on Health and Children which called for a number of policy changes to help address the health and societal issues caused by alcohol misuse.  Now, those recommendations are closer to becoming a reality.

Introducing a system of minimum unit pricing for alcohol products will be a crucial part of preventing the sale of alcohol at very cheap prices.  The minimum price will be set at a level which evidence shows will reduce the burden of harm from alcohol. This measure will help to tackle harmful and hazardous drinking that is encouraged by selling alcohol at rock bottom prices.

The marketing and advertising of alcohol is how companies encourage drinking.  Now for the first time the existing Code of Practice for Sponsorships by Drinks Companies will be put on a statutory footing.  As part of these measures it will be illegal to market or advertise alcohol in a manner that is appealing to children.  It will also put restrictions on broadcast marketing and advertising, cinema advertising, outdoor advertising, print media and the regulation of sponsorship by alcohol companies.  These measures will help to reduce alcohol consumption and that they will be reviewed after 3 years will ensure that we can make further changes if needed.

Health labelling and structural separation of alcohol will also be part of these Bills.  These initiatives will help to ensure that alcohol is not just seen as another product, it will make clear that alcohol is different and that it must be used responsibly.  Health labelling will make consumers aware of exactly how much they are drinking in terms of pure alcohol and calories.  By separating alcohol from other products in shops we are underlining that it is a different type of product.

These measures will help to reduce the misuse of alcohol across Irish society.  I look forward to debating these proposals and I hope that the Committee can play its role in shaping the final legislation so that it can deliver to reducing the misuse of alcohol that has caused problems for so many families across Irish society.

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Posted under Health, National Work

Nursing and Midwifery Board should freeze proposed increase in fees – Buttimer

Monday, 5th January 2015

  • Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland should put a stay on the increase in the Annual Retention Fee.
  • Necessary for NMBI to have meaningful engagement with nurses and midwives.

This year there is an increase of 50% in the Annual Retention Fee; it is going from €100 to €150 and is causing concern to nurses and midwives across the county. Over the course of two years these fees have increased by 80%.

The NMBI was set up as an independent board that sets its own fees and covers its own costs. But these increases are a worrying trend for nurses and midwives. The NMBI should put an immediate stay on the increase in the Annual Retention Fee 2015 as an initial compromise measure to begin the process of restoring the confidence of nurses and midwives in the Board. This should then be followed by meaningful engagement between NMBI, INMO, HSE and Department of Health. A key element of these discussions should be the involvement of a third party to independently assess the cost base of the Board.

The increased fees facing nurses and midwives contrasts with the position of other health professionals. As part of the Haddington Road Agreement registration fees for health professionals brought under the remit of CORU have been frozen. The result of this is that nurses and midwives are the only group facing an increased charge.

I have written to Dr Maura Pidgeon, CEO, of the NMBI, and asked that the Board considers these suggestions. Trust and confidence of nurses and midwives in NMBI has been undermined by these large increases in fees. It is imperative that the cost base is reassessed and the fee structure is reviewed, this process should begin with an immediate freeze of the proposed increase for 2015.


Posted under Health, National Work