For the Health of Our Nation

There is a lot of talk about Irish patients having to wait to get the medicines they need.  Why does it take so long and why doesn’t Ireland have a better system?

Medicines are an essential part of the treatment plan for many Irish patients. They are helping people live better and live longer.  Currently, around 15% of total health expenditure in our healthcare services is on medicines, which reflects their importance.1

This need requires all stakeholders to work together to guarantee access for Irish patients to the most innovative medicines at the most affordable prices. This is our resolute goal at Roche.

However significant reforms in how we use, fund and supply medicines to patients need to happen in order to achieve this. Here’s an overview of the current system to help you understand more.

Ten years ago, Irish patients had rapid access to the medicines they needed. Today, we face the worst delays in Western Europe with patients waiting to access medicines that are already available elsewhere in the EU.2

The path for new medicines to reach Irish patients is unfortunately long. Once a new medicine is authorised by the European Commission, the HSE commissions the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE), to assess it for cost effectiveness.

The HSE’s corporate pharmaceutical unit then enters into price negotiations with the pharmaceutical company. Then, the HSE’s drugs group determines if the HSE should fund the medicine. 

For some medicines, a recommendation is made to the HSE’s leadership team who are supposed to make the final decision. This means that Irish patients are waiting an average of 348 days for new and desperately needed medicines.3 Some medicines can take four years to become publically available.4

This problem can affect all of us. Medicines for some of Ireland’s most common conditions, including early breast cancer, MS and musculoskeletal disorders currently face long delays. However, there are countries that we can learn from, such as Germany, which give patients rapid access to life saving medicines at a price negotiated with the state.

The Irish state, the Irish pharmaceutical industry and patient groups can work together to give Ireland a new system that puts patients first while getting optimal value for tax payers. Ensuring that our health service is economically sustainable now and into the future is a key consideration for all stakeholders.

Change is always necessary and possible, but in Ireland we have been too slow to reform our approach to medicine procurement.

Roche urges all decision-makers to move to implement reforms as a matter of urgency, for the lives of Irish patients and their continued access to the best quality of care.

You can find out more about issues with the market access system in Ireland, how it affects people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and make your voice heard by visiting



1. OECD, Pharmaceutical Spending, [Last accessed September 2018]

2. EFPIA W.A.I.T Indicator 2016,, pg 8.

3.  National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics

4. EFPIA W.A.I.T Indicator 2016,, pg 8.