Global experts gather to stem the tide of rising drug prices
3rd Access to Medicines Conference Takes Place April 16
The third Annual Access to Medicines conference on April 16th, will bring together
patient advocates, business leaders, NGOs, representatives from pharmaceutical
companies, as well as a diverse range of medical and global health experts to
address the problem of spiralling drug costs which threatens to bankrupt health care
systems and deny patients access to essential medicines.
The conference will explore alternative research and development models that will
ensure that medicines are made accessible at a fair price and that resources are
directed at areas of greatest global health need.
In recent years, Irish patients have become entangled in difficult and protracted
battles for drugs such as Orkambi, Spinraza and Pembro. The economic challenge is
set to increase greatly once new—and very effective—cancer treatments come on
Though drugs such as Kymriah (Novartis) and Yescarta (Gilead) are clinically
proven to be effective, they come with a heavy price tag of €300,000 to €450,000
based on UK and US prices. The HSE, like so many of its international counterparts,
has very little negotiating power when faced with the position of power enjoyed by
Big Pharma, that can set the price of a drug as high as the market will bear.
“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. It will unfortunately also continue
to deny patients access to essential medicines,” says Dr Kieran Harkin of Access to
Medicines Ireland, a Comhlámh membership group of medical professionals,
patients and concerned members of the public.
From a global health perspective, the current biomedical innovation system is
overwhelmingly driven by financial interests; pharmaceutical companies develop
drugs based on the likely return that a product will offer through sales. The result is a
lack of investment in drugs, diagnostics and vaccines to meet the needs of people
who can’t afford to pay high prices, or who don’t constitute a sizeable or lucrative
This was evident during the 2014-15 Ebola epidemic when there was no vaccine or
treatment available. Many patients in developing countries suffer due to this lack of
research into neglected diseases such as Chagas disease, multi-drug resistant
tuberculosis and the effects of snakebites.
Even if treatment is available for diseases affecting people in developing nations,
high prices mean that some health systems are unable to afford it.
“Every day, MSF sees people suffering and dying from diseases, simply because
they have no access to the treatment they require. For example, each year nearly 1
million children die from pneumonia. These deaths are preventable, as there is an
effective vaccine. Many of these lives could be saved if people were able to access
the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV),” said Dimitri Eynikel European
Advocacy Advisor for Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign.
“The high price of this vaccine has blocked children in many countries from being
protected against this childhood killer. Pharmaceutical corporations Pfizer and GSK
are currently the only producers of the pneumonia vaccine, which is the most
expensive in today’s standard childhood vaccination package.”
The conference keynote speaker is Prof. Michael Barry, Clinical Director of the
National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE). Ahead of the conference he
sounded the alarm that the available budget for new drugs was virtually exhausted
less than two months in to 2019. In his address he will outline the dilemmas likely to
face the Irish health system in the coming years.
Notes to editors:
Other speakers include:
1. Patient and advocate Kate Curtin who will share her experience of living with
advanced melanoma and of her struggle to receive appropriate treatment
2. A representative of the Dutch government which has taken several innovative
steps in this area in recent years
3. Just Treatment, a UK based patient advocate organisation
4. Internationally renowned health economist James Love who will discuss
developments in the US
5. Dimitri Eynikel, European Advocacy Advisor for Médecins Sans Frontières
6. Michelle Tait, National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme Manager with the
Health Service Executive who will describe how the HSE successfully
negotiated on the price of Hepatitis C drugs
The conference will be held in the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI), 26
York Street on the 16th April.
Access to Medicines AMI is part of an international movement campaigning for
medicines that are made accessible at a fair price and that medical research and
innovation is targeted where the global health need is greatest.
RCSI is focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health
worldwide. RCSI is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in
the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2019) and its research is
ranked first in Ireland for citations. It is an international not-for-profit health sciences
institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to
drive improvements in human health worldwide.