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Ireland to publish biosimilars report Posted 10/03/2017

Ireland’s Minister for Health Simon Harris is to publish a consultation on biosimilars, he announced at a recent conference. The Minister discussed his hopes to increase their use and provide significant savings for the Irish healthcare budget.

As governments continue to look for ways to cut healthcare costs, Ireland’s Ministry for Health has announced plans to publish a consultation paper on the use of biosimilars.

Speaking at a conference hosted by generic drugs association the Healthcare Enterprise Alliance, Minister Harris said the increased use of biosimilars could free up resources from the Irish healthcare budget. The Minister described a Euros 420 million increase in the cost of what he called ‘high-tech’ medicines since 2005, and discussed the importance of making these medicines more affordable to allow more patients to access their benefits.

Across the EU, Ireland has the second worst record of biosimilar use, and the Minister acknowledged that it had been difficult for medical professionals in the country to accept biosimilars.

In July 2016, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association entered into the ‘Framework Agreement on the Supply and Pricing of Medicines’ with the Irish Government, which set the price of medicines to an EU average and provided price cuts for drugs competing with off-patent medicines. The agreement set out to make public spending on drugs sustainable and increase the accessibility of new and innovative medicines. Yet, only one biosimilar has been introduced to the Irish market since the agreement was brought into force – the TNF inhibitor and rheumatoid arthritis drug Benepali (a biosimilar of Etanercept). What is more, uptake of the drug has been poor – its branded competitor Enbrel (marketed by Amgen) made thousands more sales, despite being more expensive. This conflicts with the aim of the framework agreement to incentivize the use of biosimilars.

Recognizing these difficulties, Minister Harris said the Department of Health plan to publish a consultation on biosimilars in the coming weeks, and their first policy on the drugs later in 2017. He highlighted the need to change the current situation in the drugs market, stating that he wanted to promote more cost-effective prescribing.

Speaking more broadly, the Minister said the EU as a whole should consider actions, including joint procurement, to reduce spending on medicines. And in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the Minister is also encouraging the European Medicines Agency to relocate from London to Dublin, which he said would provide almost 1,000 jobs and up to 30,000 professional visits for the city each year. Such a move could also benefit industry by minimizing any disruptions to the work of the agency, said Minister Harris.

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Source: Healthcare Enterprise Alliance, Irish Department of Health, IPHA

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