Irish patients denied access to vital cancer medicines, IPHA says

It says "persistent delays" mean seven new medicines are unavailable

Irish patients denied access to vital cancer medicines, IPHA says

File photo shows tablets measured out in a pharmacy | Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/PA Images

Irish patients do not have access to seven new cancer medicines available in 12 other European Union countries.

That is according to the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA).

It says "persistent delays" in approving medicines is at odds with the Government's cancer outcomes targets.

In its quarterly bulletin - which monitors and reports on the availability in other EU countries of new medicines that are awaiting approval in Ireland - the data shows that seven cancer medicines are available, on average, in 12 western European countries.

However, they still await a decision for approval in the Irish system.

Four of these medicines are for lung cancer.

According to the National Cancer Registry, lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death between 2012 and 2014 - accounting for 19% of cancer deaths in women and 23% of cancer deaths in men.

Each year, 2,500 Irish people are diagnosed with lung cancer, according to the Irish Cancer Society. Lung cancer is among the top five most commonly diagnosed cancers in Ireland.

The latest figures for medicines awaiting approval in Ireland, against the EU 14, show 10 IPHA medicines, evaluated through the Health Technology Assessment process, are still not on the reimbursement list for approval.

These medicines are available, on average, in 12 of the 14 EU countries - but they are not routinely available and reimbursed for Irish patients.

They are for cancer (seven), cardiovascular disease (two) and musculoskeletal treatment (one).

They have been in the approvals process for more than two years, on average, which the IPHA says is "an unacceptably long time."

However since the start of the year, 11 medicines have been approved for reimbursement and they are now available to patients.

'Ireland can do better'

Oliver O'Connor, IPHA chief executive, says Ireland's progress in approving innovative medicines for patients remains frustratingly slow.

"The figures show that we have made no progress since the last quarter.

"This is very frustrating, both for clinicians and patients, because it shows that Ireland continues to be among the slowest countries in western Europe to be able to access and reimburse innovative medicines.

"That medicines for cancer and heart disease - Ireland’s two biggest killer diseases - feature so prominently in the list is very concerning.

"The Government’s National Cancer Strategy aims to place Ireland in the top quartile of European countries for cancer survival in the next decade..

"The persistent logjam in approving cancer medicines will make it hard for Ireland to hit that target, especially when we know that about 73% of survival gains for cancer are attributable to new treatments."

"We believe Ireland can - and should - do better.

"We are keen to engage with Government and the political system to solve the problem for patients.

"We are working on proposals which we will share with Government that could improve patients' access to innovative medicines.

"The solution can only happen through partnership and dialogue between industry and Government."