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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 21 January 2021

HSE to provide funding for new life-saving drugs after criticism

Labour’s Alan Kelly had led criticisms of the HSE for not making the drugs available.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE HSE HAS said it will provide “sustainable funding arrangements” for nine new recommended treatments, following political calls to make them available as soon as possible.

Labour’s Alan Kelly has been sharply critical of the approach taken by the HSE and the Department of Health and told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke that while the HSE’s statement was “good news” for patients, more needed to be done to address problems with the system.

One drug that was singled out was coronary drug Entresto. Kelly claimed that it took 10 months to refer the life-saving medication to the Department of Health.

Entresto, which is used primarily to treat those with heart failure, has been certified as being cost-effective and life-saving. New medicines are judged regarding their cost-effectiveness by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE).

In the case of these nine medicines, they had received a positive evaluation from the NCPE but funding had not yet been allocated to make them available to patients.

“It’s a disaster… people’s lives are being affected,” Kelly said this morning. “It’s simply unacceptable.”

Kelly said that Entresto prevents people requiring further critical care treatment, and ultimately saves the system money.

Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients’ Association told the show that these drugs had been approved and were found to be effective, and that the system of accessing new medicines is “not working”.

He said patients should not be “collateral damage” while the issue is being negotiated.

Brian Turner, health economist at UCC, said that if a deal hadn’t been done on Orkambi several months ago, this conversation on Entresto would not be happening.

Turner said: “Orkambi was found to be nowhere near cost-effective but money was found to fund that.

Here we have a drug found to be cost-effective but there’s no money for that. The HSE has a limited budget. It’s tighter than my hamstring after a 100m sprint.

In an email to Today with Sean O’Rourke, the HSE said: “The HSE has recently recommended for approval nine new high-tech treatments.

Following discussions, the HSE today received a letter from the Department of Health in which clarification has been provided in relation to sustainable funding arrangements for these nine treatments for 2018 and beyond. The HSE will now commence the prescribing protocols for these treatments.

The HSE said that these treatments will be funded this year from “its existing resources”. It also said that patient safety was “paramount” in spite of this speedy rollout.

Alan Kelly said it was “good news” for people who needed these drugs. He added that we have a real issue with drug costs in Ireland.

McMahon, meanwhile, said that it is important that these drugs are not paid for through savings made elsewhere as that would affect patient care. He called for the drugs to be made available from 1 August.

“We need a clean, planned way in managing this, ” he said. “It’s not fair [otherwise].”

Read: ‘Patients are being put at risk’: Funding issues stopping 20,000 people receiving ‘life-saving’ meds

Read: ‘Put a cost on his life’: The limited options facing Irish cancer patients when time is running out

About the author:

Sean Murray

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