Monday, December 17, 2012

Epilepsy medications should not be substituted by generic drugs

Speaking in the Dáil today (Monday) during the Second Stage Debate on the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill 2012, Meath East TD and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Regina Doherty, called for epilepsy medications to be excluded from generic substitution. Deputy Doherty is supporting the amendment to the Bill being proposed by Brainwave, the Irish Epilepsy Association.

“This legislation is one of a number of Government initiatives aimed at driving down the State’s medicines costs. A three year deal with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association will deliver up to €400 million in savings. Generic substitution and reference pricing is expected to deliver a further €50 million in savings, by allowing pharmacists to prescribe cheaper generic drugs instead of more expensive branded medicines.

“Reform and innovation in healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry is very welcome. However, we must consider how these changes can affect the needs of patients with particular conditions. Epilepsy is one such condition that is simply not compatible with generic substitution.

“Professor Norman Delanty, Director of the Epilepsy Programme in Beaumont Hospital, has said that anti-epilepsy medications can’t be substituted with generic drugs without having a profound effect on the well-being of the patient. Doses of epilepsy medications are concentrated carefully for each individual patient, to ensure good control of seizures. Any variation to the dosage could disturb the balance and result in an otherwise avoidable seizure, even if the active ingredient of the drug is not changed.

“In my view, the treatment of epilepsy is too delicate a science to include in generic substitution. The push to exclude anti-epilepsy drugs from this Bill is supported by the entire epilepsy community and the healthcare professionals that treat them. Many other countries, including the UK, Austria, Belgium and the Czech Republic do not allow for the generic substitution of epilepsy drugs.

“I am hugely supportive of the contents of this Bill, the significant healthcare reforms it will bring about and the considerable savings it will realise for the Exchequer. But I do hope this exclusion for epilepsy drugs can be seriously considered. The impact on the patient must remain the central concern of every healthcare reform we introduce.”

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