Bill for cheaper medicines

A new Bill which would allow doctors and consultants to prescribe all newly diagnosed patients with generic, more affordable medicines instead of the branded, expensive medicines that we have currently, was introduced in the Dáil by Laois-Offaly Fianna Fáil Deputy Sean Fleming.

For some conditions, doctors and consultants continue to prescribe the more expensive branded medicines for newly diagnosed patients, he said.

“The 2013 Act provides an exemption allowing the prescriber not to substitute a branded medicine for a generic one in particular circumstances,” he said.

“We all agree with this, but while generic substitution is not recommended for patients on existing treatment regimes, there is no reason new patients seeking treatment for the first time cannot be given more affordable generic alternatives.

“That is what the Bill proposes to do. Prescribers should move to generics when there is no good medical reason not to do so.”

Deputy Fleming’s Bill would also allow consultants and doctors to choose biosimilar drugs, or biologics, instead of existing medicines. Biologics are medicines that are made by or derived from a biological source, such as a bacterium or yeast.

They can consist of relatively small molecules such as insulin or more complex ones.

They are more affordable and are the norm across Europe, but Ireland has refused to adopt them, he said.

“My proposed Bill would allow for patients to be switched, where appropriate, from existing medicines to more affordable, but equally effective, biosimilars,” he said. “This is not allowed under the current legislation.”

The proposed measures have the potential to deliver savings for the taxpayer, he said.

“Savings from the use of biosimilar medicines are in the region of €40 million per annum, while savings from the use of generic medicines can amount to €10 million, giving a total saving of €50 million every year,” he added. “We need to do this, as that €50 million could be put to better use in the health service.”

Flanagan regrets omission of the legacy of the past in the NI Agreement

Notwithstanding the clear gains, the Government regrets that the Fresh Start agreement on the North did not include agreement on the implementation of provisions of the Stormont House Agreement dealing with the legacy of the past, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan told the Dáil.

“We share the deep disappointment of the victims and survivors of the Troubles and their families in this regard,” he said.

“It is worth stressing again that it was not the Irish Government that pressed for an agreement that completely left aside the legacy of the past.

However, when it became clear that the choice was between having an agreement which uncoupled the past and having no agreement at all, the Government most reluctantly agreed to have a less comprehensive deal that would at least ensure that the devolved institutions would be protected and placed on a stable and sustainable footing.”

What is important now is that we find a way forward that banks the good progress already achieved during the talks on legacy issues and secures a solution to outstanding matters, including the key issue of striking the right balance between the onward disclosure needs of families and the national security requirements being sought by the British Government, he said.

“To this end, I met with Northern Ireland's Victims Commissioner on 26 November to discuss the concerns of victims and possible ways to take the issue forward in a way that satisfies these concerns,” he said.

“I will also meet the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice, David Ford and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, later this month in order to take stock of the implementation of the Fresh Start agreement.”