Ireland slow to make new cancer medicines available compared to EU average

Cancer medicines took 661 days from market authorisation by the EMA until they were reimbursed and available for patients in Ireland. Meanwhile, the EU average was 545 days.
Ireland slow to make new cancer medicines available compared to EU average

Ireland is almost four months slower to make new cancer medicines available to patients compared to the EU average, a new survey has found.

According to the annual European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (Efpia) Patient WAIT Indicator Survey, Ireland ranks 27th out of 35 countries in Europe for speed of access to newly authorised cancer medicines.

The survey measures the availability and time to reimbursement of medicines newly authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). It covers 39 European countries, including the 27 EU member states.

Cancer medicines took 661 days from market authorisation by the EMA until they were reimbursed and available for patients in Ireland. Meanwhile, the EU average was 545 days.

In Germany, the time between the authorisation for cancer medicines and availability was 100 days.

When it comes to orphan medicines for treating rare diseases, Ireland is the slowest country in Western Europe with it taking 870 days from EMA market authorisation to availability for patients. This is significantly slower than the EU average of 636 days.

Ireland ranks better, placing 24th out of 35 countries, for data available for 160 innovative new medicines with an average of 541 days to reimbursement. However, it is far off the standard set in Irish and European law of 180 days after a request for reimbursement.

'Innovation without access is meaningless'

Speaking about the findings of the survey, Oliver O’Connor, chief executive of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, said it highlights Ireland's persistent underperformance.

“In the two most recent budgets, the Government allocated €80 million for innovative new medicines,” Mr O'Connor said.

“Although the survey predates this investment, it still demonstrates Ireland’s poor environment for speed of access to innovative new medicines.

“Through sustained investment and the new supply agreement, Ireland should aspire to be among the fastest countries in Europe to adopt innovative new medicines.

“The two recent budgets will help, but there is still more that can be done to bring the standards of care and treatment to European norms.

“Patients and their families rightly expect that. This is particularly the case for patients with rare diseases where new medicines are authorised.”

Mr O'Connor described the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Amendment Bill 2021, which was proposed by Fianna Fáil TD Pádraig O’Sullivan, as a step in the right direction.

“In relation to cancer, we are making great strides but to reach the best survival rates in Europe we need to be among the best for speed and availability of new cancer medicines,” Mr O'Connor added.

“That we are coming from a historically low base should inspire us all find ways to get the latest treatments to patients quickly. Innovation without access is meaningless.

“We should complement our strong medicines manufacturing footprint with a high-performance access environment. In other words, we should match scale with speed.”

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