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Ireland plans to work with other countries to drive down the cost of expensive medicines

Ireland is to open negotiations with four countries on drug pricing and supply.

Image: Shutterstock/Tibor Duris

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT wants to work with other EU countries in a bid to drive down the cost of expensive medicines.

Minister for Health Simon Harris today announced that Ireland is to open negotiations with Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Austria on drug pricing and supply.

Harris will now issue a letter of intent to his counterparts in those four countries formally signalling Ireland’s interest in joining the existing collaboration, known as the BeNeLuxA Initiative.

“I’m delighted that Cabinet has given formal approval for Ireland to open these negotiations and I look forward to working with these countries to explore opportunities to secure affordable access to new medicines for Irish patients, through information sharing and policy exchange.

“In fact I will be travelling to Belgium and the Netherlands in the coming weeks and hope to begin discussions with my Ministerial counterparts in both countries,” said the health minister.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie last year, the minister said he was “exploring options” with other EU countries to see if he can bring down the cost of drugs bought by the state.

As Ireland has a population of over four and a half million people and Europe with 400 million, he said there could be deals to be done.

Securing access to new and innovative medicines, in a manner that’s affordable and sustainable, is one of the minister’s key objectives, he said.

Harris said there is a challenge, not unique to Ireland, to drive down the price tags of some drugs.

“That is why over the past two years my Department has been engaging with other European countries in an effort to identify solutions to medicines pricing, sustainability and supply,” he said.

Harris said working collaboratively with the BeNeLuxA countries “is a concrete step forward”.

“It will allow Ireland to explore opportunities, in an increasingly challenging environment of high pricing of medicines by pharmaceutical companies, to secure sustainable and affordable access for patients to new and innovative medicines,” said Harris.

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