Buttimer calls for detailed examination of cost of medicine

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.

Posted under Health, National Work

Buttimer calls on health insurers to reduce rates for young people

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

  • Private Health Insurance Package announced will make health insurance more affordable for young people.


These ‘Young Adult rates’ will address the sudden increase in premium rates that occur for most young adults after their 21st birthday. In many cases premiums can go up by more than 100%. Discounted rates for young adults will encourage young people to avail of health insurance. These people will, in turn, be additional customers for health insurance companies.

Since 2007, there has been a decline in the number of people aged between 18 and 26 who are taking out health insurance. A recent survey found that 48% of 18 to 24 year olds consider private health insurance a necessity and not a luxury, yet only 9% of people in this age group have cover.

The same 2014 Health Insurance Authority Survey found that reduced premiums are one of the primary factors that would encourage uptake among those who have never private health insurance.

Insurers will retain the discretion whether or not to provide Young Adult rates and I am calling on them to provide these rates and take the opportunity to attract new customers.

The measures announced today are designed to make private health insurance affordable again for as many people as possible. We want to try and limit the need for increases in premiums, and even secure some reductions if possible.


Posted under Health, National Work

Need for increased awareness of homelessness problem – Buttimer

Thursday, 16th October 2014

  • Focus Ireland’s Shine a Light Night 2014 raises awareness of the increasing problem of homelessness.
  • Charity sleep out takes place on Friday 17th October 2014 

Focus Ireland Shine a Light Night - logo 2014Over recent years housing and social difficulties have led to a visible increase in the numbers of people who are homeless.  It is important that as a society we are aware of this problem, that we understand the underlying causes of homelessness and that we take steps to provide viable alternatives.  Focus Ireland’s Shine a Light Night 2014 raises important awareness of this increasing problem and I am delighted to be able to take part in this year’s event.

For many of us our impression of homelessness is of people sleeping rough in doorways and on the streets. However, this is only part of a much greater issue. There are families, single men, single women living in unsuitable, insecure and temporary accommodation all over Ireland. It is frightening to think that one in seven accessing a homeless service is a child. Tonight’s event is an opportunity for those of us taking part to highlight these issues and to contribute to the fundraising efforts of Focus Ireland.

I was very pleased this week when additional funding to help tackle homelessness was provided as part of Budget 2015.  An additional €10.5 million will be provided for accommodation and related services for homeless people.  This brings the annual spend on tackling homelessness to €55.5 million in 2015.  The strong commitment by Government to developing social housing will help to ensure the availability of essential and sustainable long-term housing options that can help tackle homelessness.


Focus Ireland Shine a Light Night - Etag final

Posted under Cork, Environment, National Work, Social Protection