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

Access Campaign

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.