Speeches

Address by Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children, at the Irish Pharmaceutical Union´s 2003 President´s Dinner

Introduction

As Minister of Health and Children, it gives me great pleasure to be present this evening. I would like to thank your President, Richard Collis, for inviting me to address you.

Irish Pharmaceutical Union

The Irish Pharmaceutical Union has long been a vigorous representative for its members, raising issues and conducting negotiations with the Department and other bodies. In particular, I would congratulate the Union on its involvement in the Pharmacy Review Group. Without discussing the Report prior to publication, I can say that the IPU, through your representation on the Group, played a very important role in highlighting and examining issues of the development of community pharmacy in Ireland as they affect your members.

Pharmacy Review Group

In relation to the Review itself, I know that you wish to meet me to discuss the Group´s recommendations, and I am aware of the IPU’s position. However, as I am sure you are aware, the recommendations raised complex legal issues involving the EU and competition. My officials have been examining these issues in detail, and I will be in a position to meet you once they have been resolved.

Pharmacy Legislation

As my colleague, Tim O´Malley, told the PSI recently, it is intended to consolidate and update existing pharmacy legislation. Broadly, the proposed bill will provide for the safe and effective delivery of pharmaceutical services to all citizens, in a comprehensive, manageable and robust legislative framework. In particular, it will address the education, training, registration and control of pharmacists, and will incorporate recommendations from the Pharmacy Review Group.

The drafting of this legislation will involve consultation with all stakeholders, including the IPU. In this regard, I welcome the IPU’s current proposals on medicines management, which will provide a valuable input into the wider examination of policy on medicine pricing and supply. I look forward to equally constructive engagement on issues raised during the legislative process.

Value for Money in Medicines

The world is now a smaller place for health care. The issues surrounding the complexity and cost of modern medical treatments are challenging the managers of economies across the globe. This is as evident in pharmacy as in any health sector. The challenge for the State, to ensure a safe and reliable journey for medicines from the factory to the patient, at a reasonable and sustainable cost, is becomingly increasingly difficult to achieve.

In robustly seeking value for money, the State is not withdrawing from or passing on its public health responsibilities -if the money must be spent, it must be spent. However, the burden of this responsibility is greater every year, and the costs must be examined very closely to ensure that the spending returns real and tangible value for our citizens.

It is no secret that we are examining all aspects of the community drug schemes. Clearly, there will have to be changes -structural, financial, operational and legislative – if the State is to effectively pursue value for money in an area which now accounts for fifteen per cent of all health spending.

Many of the drivers for these spiralling costs are global in nature, and outside our control. Many others require hard examination and harder choices. There is no one answer to these issues. Many of the solutions we will consider will be local, and many are being proposed and used in Europe and across the world.

No part of the medicine supply chain can expect to be exempted from this scrutiny. However, we must all keep in mind that we have a common goal – the best system we can afford, and the best system that we can sustain, for our patients.

Wider Health Reform

Of course, we cannot consider medicine supply in general, or community pharmacy in particular, in isolation. Reform of the supply, prescribing and dispensing of medicines will be a part of the most significant overhaul of our health system in over three decades. We must also consider the pricing and supply reforms being undertaken by our European partners, the enormous social and demographic changes taking place in Ireland today, and possibly most importantly, the sea change in our citizens’expectations of what our health system should deliver. It is in this context that we will carry out our examination.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the scale of change we are facing may seem daunting, even overwhelming. However, I ask you to consider the advice that the European pharmacy industry has been giving its members on pricing and reimbursement reform in the EU – that change is coming, that it is not unforeseeable, and that if you have good products within a sustainable pricing structure, you have nothing to fear.

I say this tonight to the Irish pharmacy community – change will come. If you can deliver the professional services that your customers, including the State, require, and in a way that they can afford, not just for this year or the next but for the next decade and beyond, then we have a solid basis for cooperation.

I cannot offer promises of an easy future. Meeting this challenge will need hard work, vision and dedication. However, there is a far bleaker future for all of us, if we cannot provide value for money through a sustainably affordable system for the safe delivery of health care to our citizens.

The IPU has always been to the forefront of innovation and response to change in community pharmacy. I have no doubt that this will continue, and that this progressive attitude will serve your members well, now and in the future.