By Gary Culliton.
A new wide-ranging task force is to be charged with providing “advice, guidance and support” to prescribers and dispensers, to help them improve prescribing practices.
The National Task Force on Prescribing and Dispensing will also “assess the suitability of maintaining the supply of certain items with limited efficacy where more appropriate items are available”.
The new body — the membership of which will include Prof Michael Barry, Clinical Director of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE), Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and HSE National Safety Director Dr Philip Crowley — will address prescribing and dispensing of medicines from the perspective of quality and patient safety primarily and will become operational before the end of the year.
However, it is expected that the work of the Task Force will also deliver significant cost savings “in terms of achieving more cost-conscious prescribing”.
The price of up to 400 patent-protected products which have been available on the HSE Community Drug Schemes prior to 2006 will be subject to a price review and price reductions averaging up to 16 per cent are expected from this review process, the Department of Health has now said. Cuts to the price of drugs which are patent protected would represent a new approach, said Prof Barry.
A new deal will see the price of medicines marketed by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) drug manufacturers — which are off-patent prior to November 1 — cut to 50 per cent of their original price by November 2013.
The deal to cut the State’s drugs bill will have a value of over €400 million over the next three years, said the Minister for Health Dr James Reillly.
The new deal will affect major medical card therapies — such as statins and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) — which have traditionally accounted for a quarter of all State community drug spending, for example.
Reductions in the order of 50 per cent are “more than appropriate”, according to Dr Barry. “It is a good deal for the State, for patients and for innovation.”
The deal contains a mechanism which would allow reimbursement of new and innovative therapies, which had proven to be cost-effective. Problems have arisen with drugs which were assessed and deemed to be cost-effective — certain hepatitis C and MS therapies, for example, were not immediately reimbursed by the State.
The Minister will follow-up this deal with the Health Bill 2012 on reference pricing and generic substitution.
According to David Gallagher, outgoing President who led the negotiations on behalf of IPHA: “This new Agreement provides assurance for Irish patients that they will be able to get new medicines when they become available.”