Labour's 'Medicines for the Many' Policy - An Access Milestone!

Speaking to Comhlamh, Diarmaid McDonald who is Founder of Just Treatment and close ally of Access to Medicines Ireland said:

“In their announcement yesterday, Labour acknowledged the reality facing most European countries – the prices of medicines are rising at an unsustainable rate and governments need to take action if we are to safeguard patient access and future medical innovation. As the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and other EU countries take similar steps, Ireland needs to do reflect on how we will cope with this new reality. We urge the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health to consider the breadth and vision of the Labour proposals and come up with a matching set of proposals of their own. This is a landmark moment that I hope will inspire many others to follow. ”

Access to Medicines Ireland welcomes The Labour Party’s new comprehensive policy on tackling the extortionate high costs of lifesaving medicines. The policy paper, Medicines for All outlines the issues surrounding the the innovation model and proposes changes that will address the fundamental problems with the current model.

Problems outlines:

A) Pharmaceutical companies’ research and development activities are not aligned with public health needs.

B) The lack of transparency across the pharmaceutical model stifles innovation, and the NHS fails to manage data as a core NHS asset in the healthcare innovation process.

C) The NHS acts too often as price taker, rather than a price setter, despite being the main buyer of pharmaceuticals in the UK. As a result, out-of-reach drug prices burden the NHS budget or mean that the NHS is unable to provide medicines to patients that need them.

D) A highly financialised pharmaceutical industry is focused on maximising profits in the short term in order to generate the highest shareholder value. Extensive public funding supports the basic science behind pharmaceutical innovation, and yet the public gets barely any return on that investment when the research is commercialized.

Proposed changes:

A) Channelling taxpayers money towards the kind of research that will make the biggest difference to people’s lives, while safeguarding affordability through licensing agreements. Ensuring public return on public investment.

B) Using existing alternative innovation models, such as those used to fund R&D into neglected diseases and apply these to new disease areas and increase their benefits for public health and the public purse.

C) Building up pharmaceutical research and manufacturing capacity using alternative ownership models that place the NHS, patients, researchers and public health experts at the centre of decision making. Too often, publicly funded researchers have no option but to hand their work over to a private sector entity which exploits their work with little regard for the public interest; or companies exploit market failings to over-charge for unpatented medicines.

D) There are successful examples of publicly owned pharmaceutical companies, that produce both originator and generic medicines, in many countries, particularly middle-income countries, and examples of these are set out in this report. Labour proposes to create a publicly owned generic manufacturer which will develop and supply medicines to the NHS at a much cheaper price.

E) Using Compulsory Licensing to remove the patents on drugs that are deemed overpriced and that has negative consequences to the health of the British citizens. Ellen t’ Hoen, founder of wrote a blog concerning data exclusivity and how it may inhibit generic versions coming onto U.K. market after a compulsory license is issued:

F) The Job Question: Enhancing the public role in health innovation will diversify the economy, create jobs in the life sciences and drug manufacturing industry, and set us on track to truly be an innovation nation.

“The sustainable future of the NHS, the health of our citizens and economy, and the goal of overcoming inequalities in the UK and around the world, all require an ambitious rethinking of the pharmaceutical innovation model so that public interest and public value are central.”

Labour’s policy paper has inspired the access to medicines movement worldwide and will increase the pressure on governments to implement reforms that will make medicines affordable and accessible to all who needs them.

To read more on Access to Medicines Ireland reaction to this policy paper, please find Comhlamh’s blog on the subject here:

Medicines for the Many policy:

Access to Medicines Training for Patient Advocates

If you are a patient advocate and would like to better understand the reasons behind unaffordable and inaccessible medicines, AMI are offering a one day training session. The training session will be facilitated by Diarmaid McDonald from Just Treatment and will concentrate on the following topics:

  • The problem with high costs of medicines

  • Why are medicines prices so high?

  • Impact of intellectual property on access to medicines and innovation

  • How global health activists are fighting for patients

  • Patients voice!

If this is something you are interested in, please get in contact with patient advocates and Access to Medicines Ireland members:

Sheila Fitzgerald:


Robbie Lawlor:


WHERE: The Richmond Education and Event Centre, Smithfield, Co. Dublin, Ireland (fully accessible)

WHEN: Monday, September 9th

TIME: 11am - 4.30pm

TRAVEL: If you need assistance with travel costs, please discuss this with Sheila and Robbie, and we will discuss contribution towards your travel.

Conference Report 2019 Launch

The 3rd Annual Access to Medicines Ireland Conference report synthesises core messages and recommendations from international experts, patient advocates, healthcare workers and political figures. This conference took place on April 16th 2019, hosted by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

This year, there was a specific focus on proposals to reform the current model of innovation within the industry, to shift the emphasis away from patents and monopolies towards making public health and accessibility the priority.

Over 170 delegates attended to hear the diverse speakers’ perspectives on the issues that affect access to medicines in Ireland and overseas.

To view our report, please follow this click here

Videos of the speakers will be posted to our website very soon.

Knowledge Portal for Innovation and Access to Medicines

The Knowledge Network for Innovation and Access to Medicines launched a new online tool providing open-access information, research and analysis on policies relating to pharmaceutical innovation and access. The Knowledge Portal, available at, aims to make existing knowledge more widely-available and easily accessible to researchers, advocates, practitioners and policymakers to improve policies for innovation and globally-equitable access to medicines. It is a project of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, supported by a grant of the Open Society Foundations.

The Knowledge Portal brings four main resources: research syntheses, data sources, list of research gaps and webinars. The resources are divided into three interrelated themes: Pricing, Intellectual Property and Innovation, and cover a range of related topics.

Deputy Maureen O' Sullivan challenges An Taoiseach about high drug prices

“There is a more progressive model of research and development that is committed to access and affordability and that is what we need to pursue”

During Leader’s Questions, Deputy Maureen O’ Sullivan made an impassioned speech entitled ‘Big Pharma holding patients to ransom as government stands by…’

Deputy O’ Sullivan argued against the rising costs of lifesaving medicine and made reference to the costs of CAR-T therapy, Orkambi, Spinraza and Pempro.

“The University of Pennsylvania was able to produce a new treatment for cancer, CAR-T, for $15,000. Novartis is producing it at a cost of $475,000.”

The team at Access to Medicines Ireland are thrilled that Deputy O’ Sullivan referenced our call for the Irish government to support the Italian Transparency Resolution.

“I am also asking that, as called for at a recent access to medicines conference, Ireland support the Italian resolution on transparency on this matter at the World Health Assembly in Geneva next week.”

Other calls for government action included, public return on public investment by strengthening the negotiating power of universities and public research units, retaining patent rights to some publicly funded drugs and to create a policy to support the uptake of bio-similars.

To see the full 7 minute video which includes An Taoiseach’s response, please follow the link:

Drug costs threaten to bankrupt healthcare, says lobby group

Access to Medicines Ireland seeks change in R&D approach of pharmaceutical companies.

“It is clear that, unless addressed, the current system of medicines development will continue to heap financial pressure on strained health systems and put pressure on governments to reimburse medicines at any price,” said Kieran Harkin of Access to Medicines Ireland, a group of medical professionals, patients and concerned members of the public.'“

An article in The Irish Times discussing the goals of Access to Medicines Ireland and promoting our conference on April 16.

Find the full article here:

To register for our conference, please follow this link:

Access to Medicines Ireland speak at Oireachtas Health Committee hearing

Today, Dr. Kieran Harkin, Dr. Ciara Conlon and Robbie Lawlor spoke on behalf of Access to Medicines Ireland in parliament. During a series of committee hearings for the Oireachtas Health Committee National Medicines Strategy, we were invited to discuss proposed reforms to the current model used to incentivise research and development. Every member of parliament present agreed that action needed to be taken. This is a positive step for Ireland in taking action against the extortionate high prices of medicines. We welcome further discussions with the Health Committee and we hope to work together in future to increase access to medicines for all.

To watch this committee hearing, please follow this link:

Access to Medicines Ireland 3rd Annual Conference

After the big successes of our two previous conferences, we are back again with a range of new expertise from Ireland and abroad. Registration is mandatory, so please find a link to the Eventbrite page and register here.

This conference will explore proposals to reform the current medicines innovation model in order to develops drugs with public health and accessibility as the priority.

Conference Speakers

Professor Michael Barry, Clinical Director of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics

Mr James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology International

Mr Diarmaid McDonald, Just Treatment UK

Mr Bas Leerink, Chairperson of Committee which prepared the report of the Dutch Health Council, Development of New Medicines: Better, Faster Cheaper

Ms Kay English Curtin, Patient Expert

Ms Michele Tait, Manager, National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme 2014-2018

Conference Moderator

Susan Mitchell, Deputy Editor of The Sunday Business Post

Policy Document Launch in Dáil Éireann

We are delighted with the reception we got in parliament today for the launch of our policy document, Access to Medicines: A High Price to Pay. A big thank you to Michael Harty TD, Chairman of Oireachtas Health Committee for hosting us and for the engagement of many TDs on the health committee and those with an interest in fighting for health equity. We look forward to working with each other in the future to address the issue of high drug prices in Ireland and abroad.