Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has called on the Government to take urgent action to tackle record medicine shortages.
Teachta Cullinane said that while global supply constraints are part of the problem, this has been exacerbated by government failure to put in place a proactive medicines supply and management strategy.
He called on the government to start thinking radically about how the state manages and ensures a consistent supply of medicines.
He added that government has a responsibility to ensure that domestic supply chains and production, appropriately flexible pricing arrangements, and a rapid licensing process for substitute products are all in place.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“Urgent and strategic action is needed from Government to tackle the medicines shortage.
“In the immediate term, Government must review pricing arrangements for commonly out-of-stock medicine and ensure that a rapid licensing process for substitute products is in place.
“In the medium and longer term, Sinn Féin would prioritise the supply and management of medicines in the state as part of medical industrial policy.
“Not only would a strategic approach improve access to cost-effective medicines for Irish patients, but it would also boost the economy.
“There is already a significant pharmaceutical sector which can be built upon. We should be aiming to fill strategic gaps in global supply chains in a way that also benefits the HSE and Irish patients.
“Record medicines shortages have not come out of nowhere. Pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry have been warning for years now that this situation was only getting worse.
“The lack of Government action has come home to roost as 289 medicines, including basics such as low dose aspirin packs, are now out of stock. Common antibiotics and medicines for blood pressure, cholesterol, and mental health conditions are all on the list of out-of-stock medicines. The list has grown by 50% in just six months.
“The medicines shortage being experienced today is, in large part, a consequence of a failure in planning and in industrial development policy. Global shortages play a role but these have been known for some time and have been coming down the tracks. Government has not reacted.
“The government has no strategy to secure domestic production and supply of medicines, to enable pharmacies to provide substitutes without repeat GP consultations or expand the number of licenced alternatives.
“We are below the EU average for licenced alternatives, meaning that we are overly reliant on single suppliers of vital medicines where there is the potential for multiple suppliers.
“Additional constraints exist on the HSE in the context of older medicines and medicines in particularly short supply where there is no purchase price flexibility.
“While this is not a favourable solution, it has been pointed out that pricing inflexibility in the context of global supply shortages means that the HSE is at a disadvantage.
“A proactive, strategic, and long-term government-led response is needed, which deals with each of the above to ensure that the state is capable of responding to medicine shortages.”