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Generics and biosimilars can save Ireland Euros 1 billion in five years Posted 09/10/2020

Medicines for Ireland (MFI) launched their ‘Reductions in the Cost of Medicines –  Ireland’s Patients First 2020–2022’ report on 29 September 2020. This report outlines how additional savings of up to Euros 1 billion in the next five years can be achieved through increased use of generics and biosimilars.

Since 2013, when a bill to encourage generics use was passed [1], the use of generics in Ireland has led to savings of Euros 1.6 billion for the Health Service Executive, the Irish health service. These savings have been delivered by the MFI as the supplier of most medicines in Ireland. The savings have helped to dramatically reduce the cost of everyday health care and improve patient access to a greater range of medicines across the country. Evidence reveals that increased access to medicines and treatment for patients with circulatory diseases and cancer are leading to better patient outcomes in Ireland.

At present, the HSE spends Euros 2.6 billion each year on medicines. The current report outlines policy proposals that could allow significant HSE resources to be liberated by reducing expenditure on high cost patented medicines. This would be done primarily through increased uptake of generics and biosimilars to achieve savings of up to Euros 1 billion in five years. For Ireland, savings of Euros 200 million each year equate to the cost of 6,000 additional nurses or 3,500 extra nursing home beds.

In 2019, the average price of a generic medicine in Ireland was six times less than that of originator products. It is expected that, by also increasing the use of biosimilar products, the country could see an increase in savings, greater patient access and better security of supply. It is evident that there is ample opportunity for this in Ireland as the current penetration rate for biosimilars is under 50%, while for the rest of Europe it is in the region of 80%–90%. This is despite the financial incentives launched in 2019 and offered to Irish hospitals when patients are switched to biosimilars [2].

Over the last year, COVID-19 has placed added pressure on Ireland’s already over-stretched health system. With liberated funds, money could be redirected to fund frontline services such as hospital beds and much needed specialist staff. In addition, it is vital that patients continue to access medicines despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, such as those introduced to global medicine supply chains.

Ultimately, the aim of the report is to modernise public policy so that a sustainable supply of medicine to patients in Ireland is ensured for the future. Even considering the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hoped that this will lead to improved patient access to cost effective everyday medicines.

Related articles
Irish pharmaceutical association urges political parties to create a new medicines policy

Ireland’s National Biosimilar Medicines Policy aims to increase biosimilars use

References
1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Ireland passes bill to encourage generics use [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2020 Oct 9]. Available from:
www.gabionline.net/Policies-Legislation/Ireland-passes-bill-to-encourage-generics-use
2. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Irish hospitals to get incentives to switch patients to biosimilars [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2020 Oct 9]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/General/Irish-hospitals-to-get-incentives-to-switch-patients-to-biosimilars

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