Advances in medicine mean people are living longer.1 As a result, we are seeing increased incidents of chronic diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Treating more people with higher disease burdens understandably places additional pressure on already constrained healthcare systems.

Roche wants to help healthcare systems respond to the challenges they are facing. We have a responsibility to work with other key parties to ensure every person who needs innovative medicines is able to access them and benefit from them.

When setting a medicine’s price, we take into account a range of factors, including the benefit it delivers to patients, their families, caregivers, healthcare professionals, payers and society. We also want to ensure that we have a pricing strategy that will support further investment in innovation so that we can continue to meet the needs of patients in the future.

We appreciate that Ireland’s healthcare system is under pressure as budgets are not keeping up with demands, because of growing burden of illnesses like cancer.  However, Roche and our industry as a whole, has worked with the HSE to deliver significant savings. The amount the Irish State pays for medicines was cut by at least € 140 million in 2016.3

Our primary concern is that Irish patients are not getting the access to medicines that they need. 10 years ago, Irish patients could get rapid access to life saving medicines.  Today they face some of the longest waiting times in Western Europe.4

After the European Commission grants a licence for a new medicine, Irish patients must wait an average of 348 days before they can access it.5

This means Irish patients have the slowest access to medicines in Western Europe and even behind some countries in Eastern Europe such as Slovakia and the Czech Republic.4

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.

At Roche we believe that all patients in Ireland should have access to the medicines their doctors prescribe. Medicines that are integral for patients to cure, treat and prevent illness and disability.

In order to help this to happen, Roche has proposed an innovative reimbursement system for one of our new medicines, used in the treatment of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). We are suggesting that Minister for Health, Simon Harris, makes it available to Irish patients immediately while negotiations on price take place. During this time, the state can pay the German listed price.

This would mean that patients in need will get immediate access to the medicine instead of having to suffer on while the company and the State negotiate.

It also means that the State gets the best value possible because it so happens that if a price is not negotiated after two years, then we would both agree that the state pays the average listed price of 14 other EU countries.

Over 9,000 people and their families live with MS throughout Ireland.6 The disease costs Irish society more than €429 million each year resulting from direct costs, indirect costs, intangible costs and costs associated with relapses.7

Some people with MS have spoken about why early reimbursement is so important to them- you can watch their videos here and here

We believe the onus is on both Roche and the State to find a way to ensure patients with PPMS have fast access to this new medication.

You can find out more about issues with the market access system in Ireland, how it affects people with MS and make your voice heard by visiting www.PatientsDeserveBetter.ie

References

1. Lichtenberg, F.R, The impact of biomedical innovation on longevity and health, Nordic Journal of Health Economics, https://www.journals.uio.no/index.php/NJHE/article/download/1290/1177 [Accessed September 2018]

2. Brown, G, C, Living too long, Embo reports, 2015 Feb; 16(2): 137–141

3. https://www.ipha.ie/news-events/latest-news/news/ipha-guidance-on-direct-healthcare-professiona-(1) [Accessed September 2018]

4. EFPIA W.A.I.T Indicator 2016, http://www.ipha.ie/getattachment/Publications-Submissions/IPHA-publications/New-medicines-for-patients-as-fast-as-in-Europe.pdf.aspx, pg 8.

5. http://www.ipha.ie/news-events/latest-news/news/ipha-guidance-on-direct-healthcare-professiona-(6)

6.  http://ms-society.ie/pages/living-with-ms/what-is-ms

7. MS Ireland, Societal Cost of MS Report, https://www.ms-society.ie/blog-articles/1921-launch-of-societal-cost-of-ms-report