IPHA urges progress on access to new medicines following general election

Biopharmaceutical innovators have urged politicians to make faster access to innovative new medicines a Programme for Government priority when it is negotiated after the General Election. The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), which represents the originator biopharmaceutical industry, said the political leaders who form a new Government should adopt an explicit policy on how to allocate funding to new medicines, relying on both the State and industry contributions. Ireland is among the slowest in Western Europe to provide new medicines to patients. Patients in Ireland are waiting three times as long to get the same medicines, including cancer drugs, as patients in other comparable European countries.

Updated IPHA analysis has found that 13 medicines, eight of which are for cancer, have been waiting for more than 926 days to be reimbursed and made available to patients. Even though all the medicines have completed the full pharmacoeconomic process and some have received reimbursement approval, funding has not been made available, preventing access by patients. This compares to an average of 289 days from date of EMA licensing in 10 other European countries in which the medicines are available, said IPHA.

Mr Oliver O’Connor, IPHA

IPHA has called on all parties to pledge to improve patients’ access to new medicines through policy.

Mr Oliver O’Connor, Chief Executive of IPHA, said: “… We are urging politicians and policy-makers to work with the industry to solve the funding and access problem so that patients and their clinicians can get the same range of new medicines, including cancer drugs, as their peers in other Western European countries. The new Programme for Government, whatever parties agree it, should adopt an explicit policy on how to allocate funding to new medicines, relying on both the State and industry contributions.”

The statement was released recently on World Cancer Day and according to the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, every three minutes, someone gets a cancer diagnosis. Every hour, someone dies from the disease. Cancer has overtaken heart disease as the most common cause of death in Ireland. The National Cancer Strategy aims to place Ireland in the top quartile of European countries for cancer survival in the next decade.

“That will mean improving access to new medicines, including cancer medicines,” said Mr O’Connor. “Innovation is intensifying. Cell therapies are in development that can treat deadly blood cancers by reinfusing patients with their own engineered immune cells to tackle the illness. At the same time, scientists are making progress on gene therapy to cure genetic diseases. And, after a slow start, cancer immunotherapy is making big gains. 

“But it remains the case that many of the new cancer medicines our industry discovers are beyond the reach of patients here. We must ensure there is political will behind the effort to correct that anomaly.”