A group has claimed the Government is overspending millions on big brand medicines, despite cheaper generic brands being available.
Medicines for Ireland - which represents Ireland's generic, biosimilar and value added medicines sector - has said Irish patients are missing out on affordable medicines, as outdated purchasing systems see the State overpaying for medicines.
The group has said the State is losing out on €40m in savings per year on just two medicines - with Ireland at the bottom of a European league table in access to affordable biologic medicines.
It comes as healthcare leaders met to discuss new strategies for medicine pricing and procurement reform at an event in Dublin on Wednesday.
A key message was that while Ireland is well behind our European neighbours in procuring the most affordable medicines, immediate reform can reverse this position.
Speakers at the event included Robert Watt, Secretary-General of the Department of Public Expenditure, John Given, chief pharmacist at the University College Hospital Galway and Averil Power, CEO of the Irish Cancer Society.
The event also marked the publication of a new manifesto to set solutions for medicines policy, pricing and procurement.
This included fast-tracking the publication of a National Biosimilars Policy, developing a national supply and pricing agreement that creates a level playing field for all pharmaceutical companies, and government quotas mandating minimum generic and biosimilar medicine usage.
Government procurement policy
Medicines for Ireland has also called on the HSE's procurement system to prioritise use of the most cost-effective medicines - as well as an overhauling of its high-tech medicines scheme, including a framework for interchangeability and expansion of medicines on the list.
It said the Government spends more than €450m a year on branded biologic medicines, despite the widespread availability of more affordable alternatives.
An example it said is Humira - a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis - which costs the HSE over €120m per annum.
The patent for this medicine's molecule expired last October, opening the market to less expensive biosimilar alternatives.
But it said because of a lack of Government procurement policy, the uptake of a biosimilar alternative has been negligible "resulting in €25m in missed savings each year."
Owen McKeon, chair of Medicines for Ireland, said: "Ireland's medicines budget is unsustainable.
"Our population is ageing and living longer, all of which is places huge pressures on our medicines bill.
"Yet, the Government continues to overspend millions on expensive big brand medicines despite the availability of more affordable, equally effective generic and biosimilar alternatives.
"Opting for generics and biosimilars provide a clear-cut way of containing the HSE's medicines spend while ensuring the same quality of care for patients.
"This is not a revelation. The use of biosimilars, for example, is standard practice in the EU.
"The Government has itself acknowledged the benefits of biosimilar dispensing and committed, in 2017, to publishing a National Biosimilars Policy.
"Equally, in 2013 the Department of Health committed to using best value generics to ensure the greatest number of patients get timely access to medicines.
"Six years on, key aspects of this objective have yet to be implemented.
"As a result, the State continues to lose out on tens of millions of savings."
He added: "Until further reforms are implemented, Irish patients will miss out on access to affordable medicines, with outdated purchasing systems resulting in the State continuing to overpay for many medicines".