Press Release

Minister Harris signs international agreement aimed at securing affordable and timely access to new medicines for Irish patients

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has today (Friday) signed an agreement to work with Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to secure affordable and timely access to new medicines for Irish patients. The agreement to join the existing Beneluxa Initiative on Pharmaceutical Policy was signed at the EPSCO Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

Speaking from Luxembourg, Minister Harris said “I am delighted that Ireland is now a member of the Beneluxa Initiative on Pharmaceutical Policy. Securing timely access for patients to new medicines in an affordable and sustainable way is one of my key objectives as Health Minister and I am committed to working with my European colleagues to identify workable solutions, in what is an increasingly challenging environment.

“This collaboration will provide Ireland with excellent opportunities for sharing information and expertise on medicines. I want the newest and most innovative medicines to be available in a timely manner to all our citizens. This collaboration will assist us in doing just that, by ensuring that medicines can be sourced at a price that is affordable and sustainable in the context of the ever competing demands for resources rights across our health service”.



Notes to the Editor

BeNeLuxA Initiative on Pharmaceutical Policy

The BeNeLuxA collaboration was established in 2015 with a view to “fostering the sustainability of national health care systems and the affordability of medical products challenged by high prices, adverse consequences of incentives and the unfilled leverage potential of individual countries negotiating with industry”.

The objectives of the Initiative are as follows: enhance patients’ access to high quality and affordable treatments; improve the payers’ position in the market through joint negotiations; increase transparency on pricing between the collaborating countries; share policy expertise and a focus on knowledge building and; enable national health challenges to be anticipated more effectively through the use of horizon scanning.

Four areas of collaboration have been identified by the group:
– Joint price negotiations
– Horizon Scanning
– Health Technology Assessment
– Information sharing and policy exchange

The benefits to Ireland of collaboration would include:
• Successful collaboration with like- minded countries can enable Ireland to improve long-term access to innovative drugs at affordable prices, thereby providing clear benefit to all stakeholders.
• The pricing strategy being adopted by some companies means that it is not possible for Ireland (or indeed any country) to simply accept the prices being sought by every manufacturer. As a result of such pricing strategies, there is a risk that access to some medicines may be delayed.
• There is also risk in the medium term that many truly innovative products may never reach the patients as health systems cannot afford the price. The situation that Ireland and other countries are facing can be viewed as either primarily a pricing problem or a funding problem. The view of Ireland is that this is primarily a pricing problem. In order to ensure that innovative medicines are available to patients with unmet needs, many companies need to fundamentally reassess their pricing model.
• To ensure that sustainability of our health system into the future, Ireland must continue to seek lower prices than the list prices companies are seeking to charge for their products. Members of the Beneluxa Initiative will work together to identify pragmatic solutions to the challenges which we all now face with medicines pricing, sustainability and supply.
• The patient is at the centre of this international collaborative approach.