THE HSE SPENT just less than €7.5 million providing injectable beta-interferon to patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) in the first ten months of this year.
The information was revealed by Minister of State Alex White, in response to a question from independent TD Terence Flanagan who also asked about the prescribing guidelines for disease modifying treatments and the extent to which White believed they were being adhered to.
Figures show the number of patients receiving the injection treatments has fallen from 1,103 in 2011 to 866 in 2012. In the first ten months of 2013, 814 patients received the injectable beta-interferon treatment.
Costs from January to October reached €7,480,363 this year, falling from €10.2 million in 2013 and €11.3 in 2011.
The junior minister said the Medicines Management Programme, which was established by the HSE aims to ensure patients have access to the essential medicines that they need. He said it also” facilitates more cost-effective prescribing with initiatives in relation to high-costs medicines” and ensures value for money in relation to medicines.
White added that another aim of the MMP was enhancing evidence-based prescribing and optimising patient safety thorough a reduction in medication related adverse events.
On the issue of prescribing deadlines, the minister of state said he would refer this to the HSE for a reply.
There have been calls for a cannabis-based drug called Sativec to be approved for the Irish market as it has been identified as suitable for the relief of certain symptoms of MS. The Department of Health has said that it is engaging with experts on how best to make it legally available in Ireland while maintaining existing controls on cannabis.
It is expected that new regulations to allow for this will be introduced early in 2014.