Troika tells health chiefs to cut €2bn drug spend
Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor – 26 April 2013
THE troika has increased the pressure on health chiefs to reduce the €2bn annual drugs bill.
Staff from the European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank raised the issue again with the HSE in Dublin this week.
The troika has consistently complained drug prices are far too high in comparison with other EU countries.
At the Dail's Public Accounts committee, HSE chief operations officer Laverne McGuinness said the troika "were very interested in the potential for further drugs savings".
The committee heard that drug costs account for 17pc of the HSE's €14bn budget – but just 9pc of the budget for the National Health Service in Britain. The troika has ordered a report from the ESRI into the cost of drugs, which is due to be finished shortly.
Labour TD Robert Dowds said it was a "scandal" so much money was wasted on drugs when it that could be used elsewhere in the health service.
He said it was "incredible" a drug for treating schizophrenia cost almost €100 here but €4.10 in Britain.
HSE director general Tony O'Brien said analysis had shown that GPs were more likely to prescribe the dearest rather than the cheapest drug.
"The aim here is to switch prescriber behaviour to the drugs which have equal clinical value but a much lower cost," Mr O'Brien said.
He said the HSE had got a good response from GPs to its new prescriber scheme, which was alerting them to the cheapest and most effective drugs.
Mr O'Brien also confirmed that there were benefits for pharmacists in prescribing the most expensive branded drugs because they would get a higher profit margin from them.
But he said the new reference pricing legislation going through the Dail would have a big impact.
This will ensure that medical card patients can only get the most cost-effective drug – and will have to pay the difference themselves if they want a branded drug.
And pharmacists will have to tell private patients if there is a more cost-effective drug than the one prescribed by their doctor.