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 Header Item Symphysiotomy Report (Continued)
 Header Item Medicinal Products Expenditure

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

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Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Deputies on all sides of the House are agreed that this issue must be resolved. The Deputy alluded to removing the Statute of Limitations, but the Attorney General's view on that is clear. It would have serious consequences for the Government in a range of areas beyond this issue.

We need to resolve this matter. I hope the report will help in that regard. I agree that it should be published on its completion and when we have had time to digest it. I do not intend to delay. I am aware that many of these ladies are getting on in years and would like closure of the issue. That is what I seek to bring. We will have to find a way to do that, notwithstanding the tight financial constraints on the Government at present.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace May I correct a mistake I made when discussing an earlier question. I meant to say "inquest" rather than "inquiry". That is why the Minister may have been surprised by my question.

  With regard to symphysiotomy, I agree with Deputy Ó Caoláin that time is running out for many of these people. The authorities in the United Kingdom have announced a new police investigation into the Hillsborough disaster, which happened 23 years ago. The Minister might follow that example with a symphysiotomy inquiry. It would not go astray.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin I accept the Minister's point that concern at this matter is shared across the board in the Chamber. I acknowledge the commitment of members of both Government parties in regard to the all-party group. Their contribution and their commitment to resolving this issue is unquestioned.

I ask the Minister to accept, whatever legal advices might be presented, that there is equal and, arguably, longer standing eminent legal advice that gives a very different view. It would be a tragedy if a particular legal interpretation caused any of these women to be denied what is theirs, by right. Surely this is something we can, collectively, aspire to achieve and deliver as early in 2013 as possible. I hope the Minister will give every favourable consideration to that appeal.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher An all-party motion on this issue has already been discussed in the House. There is unanimity among Government and Opposition parties that some way of giving redress to these women should be brought forward.

I urge the that the report be published as soon as possible and that a redress mechanism be put in place. The stories of the women are chilling, harrowing and emotive, but time is not on the side of many of them.

I accept that the Government is obliged to take the advice of the Attorney General into account but we must find a mechanism that addresses the suffering of the women concerned and allows them to share their stories with dignity and respect and seek redress.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I assure the Deputies and the ladies concerned that there are difficulties, as I have outlined, but that where there is a will there is a way. I am determined to find that way.

Medicinal Products Expenditure

 8. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly the steps he is taking to secure reductions in the current cost of generic equivalents, which are high by international comparisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57029/12]

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White The prices of drugs vary between countries for a number of reasons, including different prices set by manufacturers, different wholesale and pharmacy mark-ups, different dispensing fees and different rates of VAT. In recent years, a number of changes to the pricing and reimbursement system have been successfully introduced in Ireland. These have resulted in reductions in the prices of thousands of medicines.

The Department and the HSE have successfully finalised discussions with the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Ireland, APMI, which represents the generic industry, on a new agreement to deliver further savings in the cost of generic drugs. Under this agreement, from 1 November 2012 the HSE will only reimburse generic products which have been priced at 50% or less of the initial price of an originator medicine. In the event that an originator medicine is priced at less than 50% of its initial price the HSE will require a generic price to be priced below the originator price. This represents a significant structural change in generic drug pricing and should lead to an increase in the generic prescribing rate.

In addition, the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill 2012, which is currently before the House and Second Stage of which was completed this week, provides for the introduction of a system of generic substitution and reference pricing for prescribed drugs and medicines. These reforms will promote price competition among suppliers and ensure that lower prices are paid for these medicines, resulting in further savings for taxpayers and patients.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin When does the Minister of State expect the arrangement he has outlined to take effect? Some generic substitutions are costing between 96% and 98% of the originator medicine, which is a very marginal saving and defeats the purpose of replacement and of whatever savings can be accrued from it. Can the Minister outline the action being taken to give effect to the commitment he has outlined?

Second Stage of the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill was debated on Monday of this week. There is some concern that the same sense of urgency does not seem to apply to it as to other Bills. A raft of legislation is being rushed through in these last days before the Christmas recess. Would this Bill not have required being moved to Committee, Report and Final Stages much more quickly? How soon will we have the opportunity to address the Bill on Committee Stage?

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White The Deputy's two questions are one. The generic substitution regime is to be governed by the legislation to which the Deputy referred. The legislation itself does not purport to arrange these substitutions. It gives the Irish Medicines Board the power to do so and the regime is set out in the legislation. The legislation is required for that to be achieved, as the Deputy is aware.

Second Stage of the Bill was completed on Monday afternoon and the Dáil has referred it to the Select Committee on Health. It is my earnest wish, and that of the Minister, that the Bill be expedited as soon as possible. There is no wish for any delay in the passage of the legislation. The contrary is the case. I regard it as a priority. There is, however, an enormous volume of legislation in the system at present, including legislation in the area of health. There have been difficulties in expediting different Bills.

I hope I say this without over-extending the point. We were fortunate that we had time available on Monday, because the House was sitting to deal with other matters, and we were able to get the Bill in on Monday afternoon. The quicker this can be done the better, from our point of view. There are four health Bills in the Houses currently. This is very important legislation, for the reasons I outlined in my reply and which Deputy Ó Caoláin supports, as he did on Second Stage. Anything we can do together to get the Bill through the Houses quickly will be in all our interests.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin I recommit to offer every support for the fast-tracking of this Bill which I, of course, support. We should use this opportunity to consider ideas to improve the legislation. That is how we should approach legislation, as opposition voices. If we are not opposed to a measure our amendments are intent on improving it, where possible. We should use the intervening period before the resumption of the Houses in the new year, to prepare any possible amendments that might present so as to be able to expedite the passage of the Bill.

I would welcome a situation that mirrored what the Minister of State indicated in his opening response

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