EU stands by crackdown on drug spending in Ireland

The European Commission is standing by its latest attempt to reduce spending on patented drugs in Ireland--and it's not buckling under Big Pharma pressure.

As The Irish Times reports, the European Commission is calling for Ireland to cut down on spending for patented drugs, despite the pharma industry's vocal objections. Industry group the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) raised its "significant concern" with Irish lawmakers and the commission's representatives in Dublin, filing a complaint that called the commission's stance "quite unjustified," according to the Irish Times story.

IPHA CEO Oliver O'Connor

Cutting spending on patented meds would cause serious health risks for Irish patients, restrict treatment options available and deprive them of innovation, the association told the commission's representatives in a letter last month, as seen by the Irish Times. And the commission did not provide reasons for targeting spending on patented drugs in Ireland or spell out a predicted spending level, IPHA chief executive Oliver O'Connor said at the time. The prices of Irish patented drugs are close to the average of those in other EU countries, and the commission is confusing drug prices with spending, the industry claims.

But the commission shrugged off the complaint, standing by its earlier attempts to reduce spending. In February, the commission found that public spending on drugs in Ireland "remains well above the EU average," the Irish Times reports. In May, the commission laid out its plans to bring down spending across the board, saying "the potential remains to reduce public spending on pharmaceuticals, in particular patented medicines."

And Ireland is not the only country feeling the sting, with new therapies rolling out on the continent at sky-high prices. A recent study from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that it's getting more difficult for European countries to afford meds as pricey new therapies for chronic diseases hit the market. But the countries could band together to lobby for more transparency in drug-pricing, and the effects could trickle down to countries with less-developed regulation or health systems, the organization said earlier this year.

- read the Irish Times story

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