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Negotiations on drug pricing and supply

Health Minister,  Simon Harris has announced that Ireland is to open negotiations with Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Austria on drug pricing and supply.

The Minister said he would be sending a Letter of Intent to his counterparts in those four countries formally signalling Ireland’s interest in joining the existing collaboration, known as the BeNeLuxA Initiative, on drug pricing and supply.

Minister Harris said “I’m delighted that Cabinet has given formal approval for Ireland to open these negotiations and I look forward to working with these countries to explore opportunities to secure affordable access to new medicines for Irish patients, through information sharing and policy exchange.

“Securing access to new and innovative medicines, in a manner that’s affordable and sustainable, is one of my key objectives. This is a challenge that is not unique to Ireland and many countries are battling with the same issues. That is why over the past two years my Department has been engaging with other European countries in an effort to identify solutions to medicines pricing, sustainability and supply.

“At ministerial and official level, Ireland has been participating in a number of voluntary European forums.  I believe that this collaborative agenda will continue to develop. The BeNeLuxA collaboration is well established and is a concrete step forward. It will allow Ireland to explore opportunities, in an increasingly challenging environment of high pricing of medicines by pharmaceutical companies, to secure sustainable and affordable access for patients to new and innovative medicines.”

The BeNeLuxA collaboration was established in 2015 with a view to “fostering the sustainability of national health care systems and the affordability of medical products challenged by high prices, adverse consequences of incentives and the unfilled leverage potential of individual countries negotiating with industry.”

Four areas of collaboration have been identified by the group:

  1. Horizon Scanning
  2. Health Technology Assessment
  3. Information sharing and policy exchange
  4. Joint price negotiations

The Programme for Government commits to “drive down costs to provide new treatments, drugs etc” and to “look at opportunities for leveraging purchasing power either through national or European initiatives” in pursuit of this objective.

The pipeline for new medicines is very strong and it is estimated that in the region of 40-45 new molecules are due to receive market authorisation in Europe each year over the next five years.  It is in the high tech space that the growth and challenge will arise in the future years.