Thursday, 20 December 2018
Order of Business
I agree with what Senator Kieran O'Donnell has said. It should also be pointed out that Irish agriculture is extremely sustainable and clean by international standards, which is a point that is not highlighted regularly enough.
Like many Senators, I am contacted frequently by people who are in need of life saving drugs. I welcome the availability of the Pembro drug to women undergoing treatment for cervical cancer. While it is not likely to be effective for all patients, the limited results available are very promising. The news that it is to be made available generally is to be welcomed. Considering other steps that could be taken in this area, it would be good to hear from the Minister in the new year as to whether there will be an effort by the HSE and the relevant regulatory bodies to assess the potential benefit of the drug in treating other forms of cancer, as has been done in the United States. I believe the HSE has trials ongoing which are seeking to determine the effectiveness of Pembro. It would be good to get an update on that. In the UK the drug has been used successfully on apparently incurable prostate cancer where the standard treatments had shown no effect. This is all potentially good news and it is important that we are at our best on this. The drug is expensive; I believe it costs just under €145,000 a year for a recommended course of at least two years. However, as is the case with many drugs, we expect and hope that the price will decrease over time as our pharmaceutical industry grows and adapts to patient needs. In that context I am aware that MSD Biotech is planning to open a new facility in Swords by 2021 which will hopefully be geared towards producing new lifesaving drugs such as these.
It is important that proper processes are followed to ensure these treatments are safe and can be used effectively. I was concerned by something I heard about the Pembro announcement.