State slow to switch to cheaper off-patent drugs, forum hears - (The Irish Times via NewsPoints Desk)

  • According to Michael Barry, clinical director of Ireland's National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE), just six patients have been moved to a biosimilar version of rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira since it went off patent in October, reported The Irish Times.

  • The country's Health Service Executive (HSE), which spent 123 million euros on the drug in 2016, could save up to 50 million euros by switching large-scale to biosimilars, he said.

  • Barry also praised Britain's NHS for refusing to pay an "exorbitant" price for its cystic fibrosis drugs, while noting Ireland "didn't stand up to Vertex Pharmaceuticals [the manufacturer]."

  • Vertex's cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi will cost the HSE 200 million euros over five years, he said, adding that "it doesn't work for everyone, but we're paying for everyone [with the disease]."

  • Barry said the pricing structures of pharmaceutical companies were unsustainable and "it's about time someone woke up and smelled the coffee."

  • According to the news source, of 21 assessments the NCPE did of cancer drugs over a two-year period, 20 were shown to not be cost-effective, he said, yet these drugs would have cost the health service 600 million euros over a five-year period.

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