Opposition politicians may have largely abandoned their sallies on Minister for Health James Reilly’s position on the bumping-up of a site in Balbriggan belonging to his associate, for development as a primary care centre, but controversy and malodour involving the Minister and his actions are not going away. Today we learn of continued resistance by consultants to his late-in-the-day reform of work practices, but it was earlier this week that the Minister revealed in the Dail that practically all medicines used in the Irish public health system are expensive non-generic medicines. This compares with just 20% use of non-generic medicines in our closest neighbour, the UK.
Minister Reilly was responding to a series of questions from the Sinn Fein health spokesman Caoimhghin O’Caolain and the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty. It was revealed that in 2011, a staggering total of €1.85bn of drugs were prescribed in Ireland and that just a paltry €100m per annum are non-generic. In a recent IMF report on selected issues in Ireland, it was revealed that in the UK, 80% of drugs prescribed are generic. It seems that the IMF estimate of generic drug use in Ireland of 20% was four times over the true percentage*, which just aggravates the point being made by the IMF. Generic drugs, whose patents may have expired, are less expensive than non-generic drugs, yet Ireland’s health service, overseen by Minister Reilly is aloof to tackling an area which could see hundreds of millions of euro savings per annum. Just how much longer can this minister continue in his post.
The full parliamentary questions and responses are here:
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: To ask the Minister for Health the full drugs bill for the Health Service Executive for 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; if he will provide a breakdown of same by scheme, by patent status and branded generic status.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide an estimate of the cost of drugs and medication used by the public health service in each of 2010 and 2011.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide an estimate of the cost of generic drugs and medication used by the public health service in 2010 and 2011.
Minister for Health, James Reilly: HSE expenditure on drugs and non-drug items (dressings, etc.) under the GMS and community drug schemes for the years 2010 and 2011, including mark ups and dispensing fees for pharmacists and wholesalers, is set out in the following table:
The HSE’s Performance Report indicates that expenditure up to July 2012 is approximately €1 billion . Expenditure on generic drugs is estimated to be in the region of €100 million per annum.
The outstanding information sought by the Deputies is being collated and will be supplied as soon as possible.
* UPDATE: 25th October, 2012. It has been pointed out that the IMF study examined volume which showed that 20% of volume was non-generic, the PQs above reveal that 5% by value is non-generic.