Minister appeals to cancer drug manufacturers to 'show compassion' during HSE approval process

The HSE says the drug pembrolizumab could cost the State an estimated €64m over five years

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Simon Harris. Image:

The Health Minister is appealing to the manufacturers of two cancer drugs to "show compassion" to patients while a decision is made on funding the medicines.

The HSE is to meet this week to decide if pembrolizumab and nivolizumab will be made available under HSE schemes.

In a statement last week, the executive said: "Affordability of drugs generally, and of new medicines, is an issue globally and there are a range of other new medicines also becoming available to the market in 2016. The HSE must operate within its allocated budget for 2016 and within this prioritise the allocation of resources across the entire health system".

The statement adds that pembrolizumab could cost the State an estimated €64m over five years at the price being sought by the company.

Simon Harris says the care of patients has to be the absolute priority and he has asked the HSE to make a decision as quickly as possible.

However, he suggested that the manufacturers have a role to play too.

"Can I appeal to the drug manufacturers to show some compassion," he said. "They previously had ran a 'compassion access programme' which a number of Irish patients benefited from.

"That programme has closed now, and what I would respectfully ask the drug manufactuers this afternoon is to reopen that compassionate access programme whilst this approval process is ongoing," he added.