Still no clarity when life saving drugs will become available for patients

Alan Kelly TD
20 September 2017

Labour Health Spokesperson Alan Kelly has called for clarification from the Minister for Health and the HSE about the sustainable funding arrangements that have been put in place for nine new drugs, and when those drugs will become available to patients. Two months there is still no further information from the HSE.

Deputy Kelly said:

“At the end of July we were told that the HSE would provide sustainable funding arrangements so that Irish patients would have access to nine new drugs that have been found to be cost effective and life saving. Yet, there is still no clarity from the HSE when key life-saving drugs may be available more widely for patients in Ireland. These include drugs that treat heart disease, cancer and depression and other serious conditions.

“Right now there are patients who need these drugs but cannot get them, despite an announcement last July that reimbursement would commence. Who knows what the consequences of this delay is? We witnessed a fiasco in late July whereby the HSE and the Department of Health were at loggerheads over the affordability of said drugs. Once the row became public, it was solved within days and the HSE announced their intention to reimburse nine drugs – but nothing since.

“While it is right and appropriate the HSE put prescribing protocols in place, delaying this will save the HSE money when it is known they are overspending and trying to meet financial targets towards the end of the year. I sincerely hope that the motivation for delaying reimbursement is not a budgetary one.

“This includes Entresto, which helps reduce the risk of death and hospitalisation in heart failure patients. It is routinely available across Europe and has been fast-tracked for approval in the US. It’s a drug that keeps people out of hospital. They can be treated at home, enjoy a better quality of life and also – save the state money. Every heart failure patient that enters a hospital costs the state €7800. Yet the cost of Entresto to the HSE is approximately €1700 per patient per year.

“All nine of these drugs have passed the clinical examinations by the HSE, however Entresto has been shown to be cost effective and will prevent patients ending up on in acute care.

“Nobody knows what is happening with these drugs. Nobody knows when they will get reimbursement – if ever. We still don’t know the date when they will become available to patients.

“The system of drug reimbursement in Ireland is extremely slow, lacking in transparency and indeed efficiency. These delays cause patient groups to campaign on the gates of Leinster house to access drugs that in many cases. Not only this, but a DPER paper published during the year demonstrated clearly that we are overpaying in this flawed system.

“Drugs that are certified by the NCPE then go through a process of negotiation with the HSE. Nobody has any control over how long this process lasts, there are no defined decision times and the process is not one that is followed in any other European country.”

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