Medicines for Ireland, the representative body for the generic medicine industry in Ireland, voiced its concerns that medicines shortages which have been growing in Ireland are likely to increase further once the UK leaves the EU.
Healthcare stakeholders gathered yesterday as part of a Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) initiative to develop solutions to the growing problem of medicine shortages in the Irish market. Currently there are over 120 medicines which are out of stock.
These medicines cover a wide range of conditions, which impact upon tens of thousands of Irish patients, including asthma, thyroid conditions, oral contraception, angina and schizophrenia.
Medicines shortages have become a growing feature of the Irish healthcare landscape in recent years, prompting bodies such as the HPRA to now move to develop solutions to the problem.
However, industry groups such as Medicines for Ireland point out that the unsustainably low reimbursement price set by the HSE for many of these medicines is often a major driver for shortages.
The group warns that many generic medicines are now priced so low as to render them unattractive to global suppliers, who direct these products away from Ireland to higher priced markets.
Under the latter system, because of the small volumes of medicines required for the market here, medicines packed in the UK are often marketed and supplied to the Irish market. However, after the UK leaves the EU, its’ medicine regulatory regime may diverge from the existing European regime and by extension Irish regime. This could mean that medicines approved for use in the UK may not be approved for use in the EU and Ireland.
Speaking this week, Chair of Medicines for Ireland and Country Manager for Mylan, Owen McKeon said, "While everyone is supportive of a reduction in medicines prices from the historic high prices paid for branded medicines in the past, balance is still needed. Ireland has now reached a tipping point whereby the price of some generic medicines has fallen to such an extent that often a month’s supply can cost less than a bar of chocolate. This is unsustainable over the longer-term. These low-cost medicines continue to be used by tens of thousands of Irish patients but are also often most vulnerable to shortages."
He added, "This unsustainable pricing has made the Irish market unattractive to global suppliers, who have to factor in development, production, regulatory and staffing costs before supplying the market here."