Seanad debates

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Adjournment Matters

Drugs Payment Scheme Coverage

7:15 pm

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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As the Minister of State will be well aware, people who suffer from multiple sclerosis find the disease very debilitating and compromising. My understanding is, however, that a new drug, Fampyra, gives incredible relief to sufferers, but it is not available as a prescribed medicine under the long-term illness scheme. My question is simple. Does the Minister have plans to provide this drug under the scheme for sufferers of multiple sclerosis to enhance the quality of their lives?

Photo of Paudie CoffeyPaudie Coffey (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Senator for raising this issue with which I am dealing on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar. I am happy to clarify the matter for the Senator.

It is important to state decisions on which medicines should be licensed for use in Ireland and reimbursed by the taxpayer are not political or ministerial. Such decisions are made on objective, scientific and economic grounds by the HSE on the advice of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics, NCPE, at St James's Hospital. The HSE has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and the reimbursement of medicinal products under the community drug schemes derived from the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013. It received an application for the inclusion of Fampridine, otherwise known as Fampyra, in the GMS and community drug schemes.

The HSE received an application for the inclusion of fampridine, otherwise known as Fampyra, in the GMS and community drugs schemes. The application was considered in line with the procedures and timescales agreed by the Department and the HSE with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association for the assessment of new medicines. In accordance with these procedures, the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics conducted an evaluation of fampridine. It concluded that, as the manufacturer was unable to demonstrate sufficient effectiveness and offer a fair price for fampridine in the Irish health care setting, it was unable to recommend the reimbursement of the product. The report is available on the NCPE's website. On foot of this, the HSE decided that it was not in a position to add the drug to the list of reimbursable items supplied under the GMS and other community drugs schemes. It is open to the manufacturer at any time to submit a new application to the HSE for the inclusion of the drug in the community drug schemes by incorporating new evidence which demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of the drug, by offering a reduced price, or both. A revised application was received by the HSE on 25 July 2014 and is currently being considered.

The Minister for Health wants to assure the Senator that he and the HSE fully understand the concerns of patients regarding the availability of this drug. While he appreciates that some may take the view that the taxpayer should reimburse every licensed medicine for whatever the price the drug company demands, he hopes the Senator will appreciate that the better interests of the health service require that we only reimburse the drugs that are the most effective medicines, and only at a fair price.

7:25 pm

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I am happy with the Minister's response. I am sure the new evidence, and certainly the testimonials of patients who have used the drug successfully, will be taken into consideration in a review.